On Tamil New Year day on Friday, a dozen senior MLAs of the ruling AIADMK including some ministers met TTV Dinakaran at his residence. Emerging after the meeting, Dinakaran said they had merely come to wish him on the occasion.
The meeting, it emerges, was anything but a cordial exchange of greetings. Sources reveal that Dinakaran was asked to step down as deputy general secretary of the party and facilitate the comeback of O Panneerselvam, a version he dismisses as rumour-mongering. Dinakaran was reportedly told that the impression that the Mannargudi family is controlling the AIADMK, is doing a lot of harm to its public image.
The advice apparently did not go down well. It had come on the back of tension that has been brewing between Dinakaran and Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami over the continuation of Health Minister C Vijayabaskar in the cabinet. Vijayabaskar's residence and 34 other properties, most of them related to him, had been raided by the Income Tax department in different parts of Tamil Nadu on last week. The seizure of documents that suggested that Vijayabaskar was the pivot around who the attempt to bribe the voters of RK Nagar revolved, had embarrassed the EPS regime. Other documents also suggested huge corruption under his watch in the health ministry, with meticulous records of bribes paid by medical college managements, maintained by Vijayabaskar's accountant.
The chief minister wanted Vijayabaskar dropped as he felt his government was being tainted by his presence in the cabinet. Dinakaran would have none of it as he felt the health minister was part of his campaign team in RK Nagar, where the 12 April election was rescinded after the raids. Sacking him, Dinakaran feels, would give the impression that Vijayabhaskar is guilty and would reflect poorly on him as well.
Sources also indicate that the decision to bell Dinakaran is an indication that backchannel talks between the OPS and EPS camps that have been on for a week now are proceeding well. Representatives of the two camps had also met a top-ranking leader of the ruling party in Delhi this week where it was conveyed that the AIADMK leaders of both camps should get together, keeping the Sasikala clan out.
But that is easier said than done because of the Sasikala faction, despite her status as a prisoner in Bengaluru jail till 2021, still, commands the personal loyalty of between 20 and 25 legislators. Some of them in that group are MLAs who will not like to work under the leadership of either EPS or OPS. If that number indeed holds out, it would make an OPS + EPS arrangement a minority government. Ruling party lawmakers who have reached out to OPS in the last one week have conveyed to him that they do not wish to face an election at any cost in 2017 or even 2018 for that matter. They will, therefore, go with whichever side that promises political stability.
The Sasikala camp has asked the Election Commission for eight weeks time to submit more affidavits to buttress its claim to get the frozen two leaves symbol. The OPS camp is also likely to file a similar request. But at the same time, on Monday, it will ask the EC to decide at the earliest on the legality on Sasikala continuing as general secretary.
If Sasikala's election is declared null and void, that will automatically render Dinakaran also an illegal entity in the AIADMK. Those seeking a merger believe that it could just be the trigger to make everyone fall in line. Another move that could set the cat among the pigeons could be action against Vijayabaskar, including possible arrest.
If the numbers are arranged, there are two possible leadership arrangements being worked out. One is to continue with EPS as chief minister and appointing OPS as the new AIADMK general secretary. The other possibility is to elect OPS as chief minister and also general secretary with EPS taking over as deputy chief minister. Either way, it will keep the two communities of Thevars and Gounders on its side, as OPS and EPS belong to these two politically dominant communities.
With the possibility that local body elections will be delayed as well, it gives time to the two AIADMK factions to get their act together. If the Golden Resort episode in February is anything to go by, Dinakaran is hardly likely to go down without a fight. Given the suspense thrillers with all its twists and turns AIADMK politics have become, predicting the climax is fraught with risk.
Updated Date: Apr 15, 2017 19:40 PM