TAMIL NADU NEWSLETTER
Chennai: The AIADMK (Amma) Ministry headed by Edapadi K. Palaniswami, is suffering from a new headache in the shape of party deputy general secretary T.T.V. Dinakaran, who is now out of Tihar jail having been granted bail in the Election Commission bribery case. Dinakaran, who was in Chennai last week in connection with his appearance before the Enforcement Directorate in a money laundering case under FERA, had given audience to over thirty party MLAs who pledged their support to him. This has shaken Palaniswami who was under the impression that Dinakaran would keep off party affairs to facilitate the merger of the AIADMK (Puratichi Thalaivi Amma) so as to regain the frozen election symbol of two leaves.
Palaniswami’s anxiety is the slender majority of five MLAs he has in the State Assembly, which will be holding its session from Wednesday to pass the Goods and Services Tax Bill and the budgetary grants for various ministries. A slightest tilt on the part of his faction MLAs while cut motions are likely to be moved by the opposition DMK would seal the fate of the ministry. The Chief Minister is confident that he would be able to tide over any threat to his ministry since Dinakaran and the rival faction are aware of the consequences of such a threat materialising.
Soon after reaching Chennai, Dinakaran went to Bengaluru to meet party general secretary and his ‘Chinnamma’ V.K. Sasikala, who is imprisoned in the Parappana Agrahara jail, and announced that he continued to be the deputy general secretary of the party and “none can remove me from the post except Chinnmma”. This emboldened 34 MLAs supporting Palaniswami to express their solidarity with Dinakaran. The latest to defect to the Dinakaran camp is former Deputy Speaker of the Assembly Parithi Ilamvazhuthi from O. Panneerselvam’s AIADMK (PTA) faction.
Not to be outwitted, Palaniswami also invited party MLAs for discussion of their respective constituency problems. He asked them to put the issues on paper and directed the officials in the presence of MLAs to look into them and redress the genuine grievances immediately. He indirectly told the MLAs, “Any revolt on minor issues will only benefit the DMK which is waiting in the wings with its mouth watering”. This way the Chief Minister tried to assuage the ruffled feelings of his MLAs.
Meanwhile, Panneerselvam has disbanded the seven-member merger negotiating committee of his faction, stating that the “ruling clique is playing a double game and party cadres have realised this and expressed themselves against merger”. Claiming that he has the party cadres with him, Panneerselvam said that this would be endorsed by the Election Commission since he had submitted sufficient documents to prove his support among the cadres. “I am also sure that the two leaves symbol would come to my group, the real AIADMK,” he asserted.
Dinakaran has since changed tune and says, “My elder brother OPS will surely come back to us, as we were all brought by MGR and Amma and are keen on continuing the Amma legacy.” He also allayed the fears expressed by some that he was rocking the boat of Palaniswami and said, “Our petty quarrels should not benefit our arch rival, the DMK. I am only acting at the behest of Chinnamma that we should watch the progress of the merger talks between the two factions for the next two months.”
The deputy general secretary had declared earlier that he and Chinnamma would not interfere in the affairs of the party and the Government to preserve the parent party’s unity. Based on this declaration, Palaniswami had initiated steps for the merger of the two factions, since the main demand of the Panneerselvam faction that both Sasikala and Dinakaran should be sidelined had been met.
The confusion prevailing in the AIADMK has raised the hopes of DMK working president M.K. Stalin, who is keen on ending the ‘benami’ Palaniswami Ministry. BY ‘benami’ Stalin means that the present ministry is guided by the BJP-led NDA Government at the Centre. He utilised the recent 94th birthday bash of his father M. Karunanidhi to project an all-India anti-BJP front by inviting all non-BJP leaders to participate in the gala function. It was attended, among others, by Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, Bihar Chief Minister and Janata Dal (United) leader Nitish Kumar, former Kashmir Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah, CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury and CPI general secretary D. Raja. All of them endorsed the Stalin proposal to fight the “communal” BJP unitedly. Rahul Gandhi and other leaders paid a courtesy call on the ailing Karunanidhi.
Rahul Gandhi took the opportunity to call upon the Congress workers to take advantage of “the current political vacuum in Tamil Nadu” to boost the party’s prospects in future elections, particularly the forthcoming local self-government body polls.
The BJP, too, is keen on gaining a substantial space in the State, exploiting the “political vacuum” left by Jayalalithaa. Union Minister for Road Transport, Highways and Shipping Nitin Gadkari, who was in Chennai last week as part of the party celebrations to mark the three years of Narendra Modi Government, while admitting that “Tamil Nadu is a difficult State for our party” appealed to party workers to enroll members on a large scale. BJP TN unit president Tamilisai Soundararajan, in her emotional speech, declared that the saffron flag would soon be hoisted on Fort St. George, the seat of the TN Government. Probably, she has forgotten that only the national flag can be hoisted on the ramparts of Fort St. George!