CHENNAI: After senior leaders from the ruling camp came out in the open on Tuesday night and said he and his aunt V K Sasikala, who is the general secretary of the party, would be sidelined in the interest of the party, Dhinakaran went into a huddle with his loyalists.
According to sources, eight MLAs took 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 statements the suggested he had all but conceded openly.
“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 the 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 para-dropped to the leadership position.
“There is no need to resign. 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, staunch loyalists like minister R B Udhayakumar and Thanga Tamilselvan, and even rivals from within the faction, changed their tune.
“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.