CHENNAI: Encircled by rebels and the mutiny from within, AIADMK deputy general secretary TTV Dhinakaran took a step back from the intense factional feud, announcing that he has side-lined himself from party affairs since Tuesday.
“Since I came to know about the decision of functionaries in the party, I have been keeping myself away from party affairs since yesterday. I will never be a reason to weaken the party,” Dhinakaran told the media outside his residence in Chennai this morning.
Minutes later, leader of the rebels, former Chief Minister O Panneerselvam addressed the media to announce that they would hold discussions with the official faction to decide. “Side-lining [AIADMK general secretary] Sasikala and family from the party is the first victory for the Dharmic battle we undertook,” he said during his brief interaction outside his residence.
While rebel camp leader former minister K Pandiarajan said the MLAs and MPs with them will hold a meeting on Thursday, sources said the discussions over the modalities of the merger would be taken up later on Wednesday itself.
It, however, may not be a smooth process, as both sides are sure to bargain hard before reaching a settlement. Sources in the Panneerselvam camp confirmed to Express that they were demanding chief minister’s post for their leader, which will not be an easy demand for the ruling faction to accede.
Also, responding to a question late evening on Wednesday, senior leader from the Kongu belt, Lok Sabha deputy speaker M Thambidurai, pointed out that the incumbent Chief Minister ‘Edappadi’ K Palaniswami had won a trust vote, and added that the situation did not warrant any change.
Earlier, after the senior leaders from his own camp came out in the open last night stating that he and the rest of the members from his aunt and party general secretary VK Sasikala’s family – known widely as the Mannargudi family – would be side-lined in the interest of the party, Dhinakaran went into a huddle with his loyalists – sources said eight MLAs too part in the meeting. Near midnight, it was known that he had called for a meeting of MLAs and office-bearers including district secretaries at the party headquarters on Wednesday afternoon.
This drew sharp response from the leaders, including finance minister D Jayakumar and law minister C Ve Shanmugam this morning.
Jayakumar pointed out that only the headquarters secretary – Chief Minister ‘Edappadi’ K Palaniswami – could convene such a meeting, while Shanmugam, once a staunch and loud loyalist of the Sasikala clan, said Dhinakaran would not be permitted inside the headquarters.
Within hours, Dhinakaran met the media and made the statements in the morning during which he seems to have all but conceded openly; however, though this is a compulsion and not a concession, it remains to be seen how much of it is strategic.
“I did not convene the meeting of MLAs and district secretaries to show my strength. That too at the party headquarters. I was about to convey to them that the party should not face a split at any cost,” Dhinakaran maintained. The meeting was cancelled due to a court proceeding that he had to attend on Wednesday afternoon.
Even as he managed to wear a pleasant and smiling visage, Dhinakaran raised questions about the new found fear among the State ministers but stopped short of accusing the Centre for this change.
“They [his own faction members who disowned him] were all my friends; you have seen them here with me. Suddenly, after April 14, something changed. It appears they have some fears, but I don’t know what caused that,” said Dhinakaran, indicating the much-rumoured pressure from the Centre-ruling BJP and the various Central agencies that reportedly rattled the ruling faction enough to turn against Sasikala clan.
Dhinakaran has not officially resigned from the deputy general secretary post so far, maintaining that he had to consult his aunt, Sasikala, who appointed him to the post. This, perhaps, is the primary trouble that he had – that he was selected by his aunt to be para-dropped to the leadership position of AIADMK, and not elected by the crores of cadres.
“There is no need to resign the post. Keeping myself away from the party affairs is enough. Party post is there only when you act,” he said in reply to a question. Asked about statements by some of his loyalists including MLAs Thanga Tamilselvan and P Vetrivel, and spokesperson Nanjil Sampath that the Centre-ruling BJP was behind the developments, Dhinakaran said he did not have any confirmation about the matter to raise the allegation.
Soon after Dhinakaran openly declared that he would remove himself from the frame, the staunch loyalists like minister RB Udhayakumar and Thanga Tamilselvan MLA, who had openly taken on rebels and even rivals from within the faction, changed tunes.
“We will abide by the decision of our leader TTV,” said Tamilselvan. The change of tone from Udhayakumar, who was among the cabinet members who publicly undermined the then Chief Minister Panneerselvam by seeking him to be replaced with Sasikala, was the most stunning. Speaking to the media, he said the party cadre learned lessons in loyalty from Panneerselvam, comments that triggered disbelief and derision in equal measure.