SALEM: A day after five persons were arrested for hurling petrol bombs at the residence of former Minister T M Selvaganapathy around three months ago, the factional fight in the DMK took a turn for worse with heavyweights of both the groups using the development as canon fodder in their tussle for supremacy. While associates of Panamarathupatti R Rajendran claimed that Selvaganapathy stage-managed the attack to garner sympathy, the former minister’s supporters maintained that the assault was a last-ditch effort by Rajendran to check their leader’s rise within the ranks.
The genesis of the factional fight lies in the tussle for supremacy after the death of DMK strongman from Salem, Veerapandi S Arumugam in 2012. The vertical split resulted in the creation of two factions, one led by Arumugam’s son Veerapandi A Raja and the other under Panamarathupatti R Rajendran, a close aide of M K Stalin. While things were never rosy in the DMK camp, matters came to a head in the aftermath of Lok Sabha election debacle, when the party district was divided into three, with Veerapandi A Raja getting hold on Salem East (district in-charge), Salem West falling into S R Sivalingam’s kitty (district secretary) and Rajendran managing to wrest Salem Central district (district secretary).
However, Veerapandi Raja’s supporters made a concerted effort to undermine Panamarathupatti Rajendran’s authority and began canvassing for Raja’s appointment as Salem Central district secretary. In the face of heavy odds, Rajendran’s proximity to Stalin and his relatively cleaner image worked in his favour. Soon, Rajendran began purging his fief by handpicking supporters for all major posts. While the power play was on, the 2016 Assembly election came calling. While the top brass directed Rajendran and Raja to work together and win two seats each, the drubbing came as a major setback for the party. While Raja lost to AIADMK candidate Manonmani in Veerapandi constituency, Rajendran did no harm to his image by not only winning Salem North constituency but also emerging as the sole winner on a DMK ticket in the district.
The Assembly poll debacle led to an exodus of sorts from Veerapandi Raja camp, with cadre flocking to support T M Selvaganapathy, called fondly TMS, whose camp began swelling with dissenters following another round of purging by Rajendran. The arrival of a third power centre further aggravated the situation and matters came to a head on October 27 when TMS supporters organised a membership drive at Arisipalayam under ward 27 of Salem City Municipal Corporation.
Factional fight came out in the open when a fight broke out between the supporters of DMK secretary and zonal secretary, leaving many injured. On the night of October 27, some assailants hurled petrol bomb at TMS’ house at Kumarasamipatty. A bike and a car parked on the premises were gutted in the arson attack. This issue escalated and DMK high command launched an inquiry. Meanwhile, after three months, police arrested five persons — Arulram, Mani, Mouleeswaran, Vardharaj and Mayilsamy — in connection with the attack.
This is where the blame game starts. Arulram was the former Salem DMK youth wing organizer and was expelled from the party by Rajendran before the incident. After the expulsion, he switched loyalty to TMS. In November last, he lodged complaint with city police commissioner claiming that Rajendran’s supporters were trying to kill him. His arrest has set tongues wagging, with Rajendran’s camp demanding action against TMS for allegedly trying to gain sympathy of the top brass and public. No sooner had the arrests been made public than DMK cadre began sharing photos of TMS with Arulram and Vardharaj on social media. Rajendran’s supporters claimed that TMS had set his sights on Central district secretary post and employed his dirty tricks department to malign the MLA’s name.
Speaking to Express, T M Selvaganapathy’s supporters said, “We do not understand what is wrong in
TMS trying to become the Salem Central DMK secretary. He is a former minister, a two-time MP and knows the nuances of politics. It was in recognition of his credentials that the party high command made him election wing secretary. TMS is a State-level functionary in the DMK and is accessible. This means anyone cane take photos with him. The campaign to tarnish his reputation by spreading canards and sharing irrelevant photos shows the rivals in poor light.”
When contacted, T M Selvaganapathy refuted all allegations and cited police version of Arulram’s intention of creating enmity between Rajendran and him. “People involved in the petrol bomb hurling case should be brought to book,” he added. However, he backed his supporters saying none from his camp would execute such an act. “We award party posts on basis of work. Party high command knows about me and my work,” he added.