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AIADMK row: Support for TTV Dinakaran grows, Palaniswamy should not underestimate Sasikala clan just yet

About six weeks back, TTV Dinakaran was down and out, the bribery case against him to secure the 'two leaves' symbol for his faction of the AIADMK, hanging like an albatross around his neck. But with his moves days after he emerged out of Tihar Jail on bail, Dinakaran has proved that it would be foolhardy to write him off. For now, he has risen like a phoenix from the ashes of the political obituaries that were written for him, the moment he was arrested in Delhi on 25 April.

His strike rate should worry Edappadi Palaniswamy and those in Chennai and Delhi who want EPS to continue in Fort St George. From 15 MLAs who came to greet him when he got out of Tihar on bail over the weekend, the number of those who flocked to his 'Jayaharini' residence in Karpagam Garden, swelled to 31 by Thursday. If the group indeed wants to play truant, EPS will be reduced to a former chief minister.

File image of TTV Dinakaran. Twitter @TTVDinakaran

File image of TTV Dinakaran. Twitter @TTVDinakaran

Dinakaran himself is not giving anything away. If the visuals of the lawmakers greeting Dinakaran unsettled the EPS camp, the ruling camp showed it. An emergency informal meeting of ministers was convened after which finance minister D Jayakumar reiterated that Dinakaran and family continue to be persona non grata and that no AIADMK member should meet him.

Jayakumar got a measure of his standing in the party when his tough talk only spurred more lawmakers to meet Dinakaran, only to tell him that they do not approve of him being kept away. They derided Jayakumar's attempt, saying they will take note only if Palaniswamy endorses what his minister had said. The Dinakaran camp even warned Jayakumar that action will be taken against him for violating party rules.

What's more, Dinakaran loyalist, Perambur MLA P Vetrivel made it clear that this was not Palaniswamy's government, but an Amma and Chinamma government. In one stroke, the Dinakaran camp had reduced EPS to a manager, who was merely running the government in VK Sasikala's absence.

Once sent to jail, support for Dinakaran was expected to reduce. Instead, the sequel 'Dinakaran Returns', that released after his Tihar stint seems to be doing better at the political box office.

But Dinakaran himself is keeping his cards close to his chest. After meeting his aunt at the Bengaluru central prison, he said he had been advised to give the two warring groups two months time to bury their differences and merge the two factions. The merger process had failed to make any headway after both sides stuck to their guns. While OPS wanted the Mannargudi family to be kept away and a probe ordered into Jayalalithaa's death, EPS was unwilling to step down as chief minister, reportedly another condition spelled out behind closed doors. In the last one month, Palaniswamy was also aggressively trying to woo the BJP, to be on its right side in order to blunt Panneerselvam's position. Sources say mediators are once again on the job to narrow down differences.

The show of strength is a message to Palaniswamy to watch out. Simply put, to mind the gap. If 31 MLAs indeed choose to show solidarity with Dinakaran, fully aware that it won't amuse people in Delhi and Chennai, it means EPS is presiding over a minority government and is a lameduck chief minister. It also makes Panneerselvam's position irrelevant as even with his 12 legislators then, he cannot prop up an EPS government under instructions.

EPS knows it will be a mistake to underestimate the clout of the Sasikala clan. After all, despite all efforts in February, they managed to hold the majority of the MLAs at the Golden Bay resort and win the trust vote. The family's support base among the MLAs is obviously not the same as it was earlier but it is still good enough to checkmate Palaniswamy.

But that isn't what Dinakaran seems to be playing for. After having shown a tearing hurry to get to the seat of power between December and April, he and his aunt now seem to want to slow down the pace of the game. The 60-day grace period that the Mannargudi family has given is to facilitate backroom negotiations. Dinakaran clearly, in contrast to his 18 April position when he said he was willing to move away, is in no mood to leave the battlefield now.

The Tamil Nadu Assembly session is due to meet from 14 June and the DMK believes the AIADMK will splinter further before that. While there is no dearth of political muscle-flexing and shadow boxing, both EPS and Dinakaran know both will lose out if they decide to fall out. But with the elephant in the room dictating the course of events, the question is whether either EPS or OPS have any option but to act according to the script dictated to them.

Updated Date: Jun 07, 2017 19:40 PM

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