TAMIL NADU NEWSLETTER
CHENNAI: With its general secretary Sasikala in Bengaluru prison and her deputy TTV Dinakaran in Tihar jail under judicial custody, the ruling faction of the All-India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam is in the throes of a crisis, though there is no immediate threat to the Edapadi Palaniswami Ministry.
Having lost the popular two-leaves election symbol because of the split in the party, attempts are being made to merge the two rival camps – ruling AIADMK-Amma and AIADMK-Puratchi Thalaivi Amma under the control of former Chief Minister O Panneerselvam – so that the prestigious poll symbol could be regained to face the forthcoming civic and local self-government body elections which are likely to be held any time before the end of July.
But the efforts at merger are facing several roadblocks, though the rival groups have formed negotiating committees for the purpose. For the past few weeks contradictory statements have been issued by leaders of both factions, stating that the “atmosphere is conducive for talks” on one hand and accusing each other of spoiling the negotiating process by putting pre-conditions, on the other.
The Panneerselvam group is insisting on the removal of Sasikala as general secretary and Dinakaran as deputy general secretary and an inquiry into J Jayalalithaa’s death by the Central Bureau of Investigation. The ruling faction has replied that both Sasikala and Dinakaran have been sidelined in the party and that their removal would not be possible since the dispute over the elevation of Sasikala is before the Election Commission. On the second demand, the ruling faction says that since a public interest litigation petition on Jayalalithaa’s death is being heard by the Madras High Court, the Government has to await the court verdict.
The AIADMK-PTA has smelt a rat in the proposal for “merger in the interests of the party and the State”, as alongside the move, the ruling faction is collecting affidavits from district-level office-bearers in support of Sasikala, so that they could be presented to the Election Commission. Describing this as a ruse to somehow secure the party symbol, Panneerselvam has practically called off the merger talks and is going on a State-wide tour to gather support from the district units of the parent party.
Meanwhile, the machinations of Dinakaran to establish his grip on the party have come to light much to the embarrassment of the ruling faction. In fact, his attempts at winning the April 12 by-election from the RK Nagar constituency by hook or by crook like bribing voters on a massive scale, booth agents of rival candidates belonging to the DMK, Panneerselvam group, etc., and the police personnel to the extent of Rs.89 crores got exposed by the raids conducted by the Income-Tax Department on the residence and offices of Health Minister Vijaya Bhaskar. The raids have exposed how quotas were fixed for even the Chief Minister and other ministers to ensure voters were bribed at the booth level. This blatant interplay of money in RK Nagar compelled the Election Commission to countermand the by-election.
Discomfiture for the ruling party is the arrest of Dinakaran by the Delhi police for his alleged attempt to bribe some Election Commission officials to secure the two-leaf symbol – that is before the countermanding of the by-poll. This came to light when the Delhi police arrested one Sukesh Chandrasekhar, who served as broker, and seized Rs.1.3 crores in cash from his possession. The broker admitted that the money was part of the deal of bribing Election Commission officials to the extent of Rs.60 crores.
When the Delhi police confronted Dinakaran on this, he refuted the allegation by saying that he had never known Sukesh and had never talked to him on phone. After grueling investigation by the police in Delhi and Chennai for days together, Dinakaran admitted to the bribe attempt through two havala agents, who have since been arrested. Dinakaran’s friend Mallikarjuna has also been arrested in this connection. All of them are lodged in Tihar jail.
In the normal course, this should be a relief to Palaniswami from the threat of losing chief ministership, but the Mannargudi mafia is trying to rein him in by projecting another protégé of Sasikala, her brother’s son Venkatesh, as the ‘big brother’ to watch the goings-on in the ministry.
The writer is a Senior Journalist and Prime Associate from Chennai