ON A day AIADMK leaders close to party deputy general secretary T T V Dinakaran claimed that more MLAs from Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami’s camp are veering towards them, opposition DMK’s working president M K Stalin on Tuesday took a potshot at Palaniswami and asked whether the government will last until June 14, when the Assembly convenes. The AIADMK is now split in three groups, and no one knows how many more groups will be formed in future, Stalin, the Leader of Opposition in Tamil Nadu Assembly, said on Tuesday. A top AIADMK leader claimed that Dinakaran already has support of 25 MLAs, including three ministers, and that the number is likely to touch 30 by Wednesday. “Three ministers are expected to meet Dinakaran; they haven’t publicly announced their decision,” he said.
Reacting to Stalin’s statement, state Finance Minister D Jayakumar, who is acting as spokesperson for the Palaniswami camp, maintained that there is no threat to the government’s stability. “We have absolute power (majority). We will continue until 2021,” he asserted. Asked about several AIADMK MLAs meeting Dinakaran, Jayakumar said, “Those are personal meetings. Don’t mix (with politics).” Out on bail in the case of alleged bribery to Election Commission officials, Dinakaran had met V K Sasikala, his aunt and the party general secretary not in Bengaluru jail in a disproportionate assets case, and said that she had asked him to “wait and watch for two months” before taking a “proper decision”.
The Indian Express had, on Monday, reported that 15 AIADMK MLAs, three ministers in Palaniswami government and at least three party MPs are close to joining the Dinakaran-Sasikala camp. During the controversial floor test in the state Assembly in February, 122 AIADMK MLAs had backed the chief minister, and 11 were with O Panneerselvam, who had rebelled soon after Sasikala took charge of the party. One more MLA has since reportedly joined the former CM’s camp, and with 25 said to be backing Dinakaran, Palaniswami — at least numerically — could be in a spot in the 234-member House, with 118 being the halfway mark, in case of a vote.
In the wake of some MLAs reportedly toying with the idea of joining the Sasikala-Dinakaran camp, Palaniswami has started meeting MLAs and is learnt to have asked all ministers to keep his portrait in their offices. Three of the five MLAs who today switched to the Dinakaran camp told The Indian Express that their loyalties lie with Sasikala since she had “gifted” them the seats. And all five maintained that Dinakaran is more convincing and approachable as a leader than either Palaniswami or Panneerselvam. While one MLA claimed that nearly half the party MLAs “owe their seats to Sasikala” and that “all of us should support Chinnamma (Sasikala) in this crisis”, another legislator said, “Neither OPS nor EPS (Palaniswami) has TTV’s (Dinakaran) charisma.”