NEW DELHI: After a flying start, merger talks between the two warring AIADMK factions appeared yo-yo on Tuesday. The fresh bribery charges against party deputy general secretary TTV Dhinakaran – for an alleged attempt to influence the Election Commission on the frozen two-leaves symbol of the AIADMK, after the countermanding of the RK Nagar by-elections he was contesting – had pushed the faction into merger talks.
Though peace overtures were on ever since Health Minister C Vijaya Basker and three others came under the I-T radar, leading to the countermanding of the RK Nagar bypolls for large-scale bribing of voters, it began in right earnest after the nabbing of shady power-broker Sukesh Chandrashekhar. For one, the glaringly short-sighted plot to bribe EC officials through middleman Sukesh (who has since been singing like a canary) has virtually ensured that Dhinakaran has forfeited all his chances – the Sasikala faction may as well bid goodbye to its bid to get the two-leaves symbol allotted to it.
For another, the House presents such a messy picture – dogged by internecine warfare, controversy and dramatic allegations – that it offers food for thought to the Central government and Governor Ch Vidyasagar Rao. The situation changed later in the night when most of the ministers and MLAs ditched Sasikala, saying they wanted to her clan away from power.
Amidst a push for a merger by a majority of the MLAs, particularly from the Gounder community who total 28 in number, Deputy Speaker M Thambidurai arrived in New Delhi late Monday evening. He’s said to have had some meeting with the BJP top brass, though a call from Prime Minister Narendra Modi remained elusive. Even the possibility of a merged AIADMK joining the Central government and pledging the support of its 132 MLAs and 49 MPs for the presidential elections were doing the rounds in the ruling camp. But the OPS faction played hardball. Not only did it make Sasikala and her family’s ouster a precondition, V Maitreyan said: “We’ve also not given up our original demand for a probe into Amma’s death.’’
The BJP/NDA, which now has about 49.5 per cent of the electoral college votes for the presidential polls, can benefit from a merger of the AIADMK factions, provided they vote en bloc. Alternately, if the Tamil Nadu government collapses, and the Assembly is dissolved as a consequence of the internal contradictions and corruption charges, the NDA voteshare automatically becomes 51 per cent. That’s what’s required to win the elections to Rashtrapati Bhawan.