Setting the stage for a possible merger of the two AIADMK factions, and the isolation of V K Sasikala’s family, the ruling group in Tamil Nadu led by Chief Minister E K Palaniswami Thursday said the appointment of T T V Dinakaran as the party’s deputy general secretary was “not acceptable”.
Challenging the decision by Sasikala to appoint her nephew Dinakaran to the post in February, hours before she was sent to a Bengaluru jail in a case of disproportionate assets, a resolution was signed by 27 office-bearers of the “EPS group”.
The move is being seen as a signal to the rebel group led by former Chief Minister O Panneerselvam, which had specified Dinakaran’s ouster as one of its main conditions for a merger.
Thursday’s resolution also stated that Dinakaran cannot hold any position in the party, according to its bylaws, since he had failed to maintain his primary membership for five years following his ouster by J Jayalalithaa, the party leader who died in December 2016.
Responding to the resolution, Dinakaran said, “Nobody can prevent me from discharging my duties. As party general secretary, Sasikala has all the powers to appoint or remove people from the party… The resolution was passed to prevent me from going on a statewide tour (from August 14). The ministers are afraid of it.”
Last week, Dinakaran returned to active politics and announced his decision to “strengthen” AIADMK by making 41 party appointments as deputy general secretary. The move came two months after he got bail in a case in which he was charged of trying to bribe Election Commission officials for the ownership of AIADMK’s “two-leaves” symbol in a bypoll necessitated by the death of Jayalalithaa.
On Thursday, Palaniswami cancelled the 41 appointments made by Dinakaran. The EPS group’s resolution did not, however, take any action against Sasikala, stating that her appointment was an “interim arrangement” made at a crucial juncture after Jayalalithaa’s death. Referring indirectly to her jail term, it said Sasikala could not function as general secretary due to “unfortunate” reasons.
Removing Sasikala and her family members from the party, and ordering a probe into Jayalalithaa’s death were the two key demands raised by the “OPS group”, which broke away to form a separate outfit, AIADMK (Puratchi Thalaivi Amma), in February.
“Without meeting the demands, there is no possibility for a merger,” said K P Munusamy, former minister and a leader in the OPS outfit.
Dinakaran’s camp, meanwhile, described the move by the Chief Minister’s group as “betrayal”. They also accused the ruling faction of playing into the hands of the BJP at the Centre.
Amid speculation that the BJP was “forcing” the merger to take control of the state government, Dinakaran aide and party organising secretary Nanjil Sampath said, “The resolution against Dinakaran was passed to please the Centre… If there is a crisis, he will choose the party first, not the government.”
Ministers Dindigul C Sreenivasan and K A Sengottaiyan were among those who did not sign the resolution.
In the evening, Palaniswami and Panneerselvam left for Delhi where they are expected to meet top BJP leaders besides attending other official functions.
If Dinakaran were to mobilise support — 37 MLAs were said to be backing him — it would endanger the Palaniswami government.
The Opposition DMK is watching the developments closely and may demand a special Assembly session to move a no-confidence motion or, as party sources said, may take some “extraordinary” decision to prove that the government has no majority.
“We will come to a decision after August 20 (six months since the last floor test on February 22). We will take extraordinary steps, unlike last time, to make sure that the state has a functioning government,” a DMK source said.
DMK leader M Subramaniam, a close aide of M K Stalin, told The Indian Express that the party did not want to topple this government. “But how long will they survive? This is not a stable government. Right now, the party has no plans to move a no-confidence motion. But the government is already dead, we are sure they will fully perish soon,” he said.
“If EPS revolts against Dinakaran one more time, then the government will fall,” said an MLA who met Dinakaran. “Today’s resolution did not even use the word expulsion. They want to convince BJP that they have taken some action against Dinakaran. Anyway, this is not going to help the party or the government,” the MLA said.
“Officially, EPS has 123 MLAs, just five more than the minimum number 118. But 37 support Dinakaran. Even if OPS and EPS camps merge, Palaniswami gets only 10 more MLAs,” the MLA said.
BJP national secretary H Raja said he did not wish to comment on claims that his party was trying to stabilise the situation. “All I can tell you is that we will do all that we can to end family politics (referring to Sasikala), which is detrimental to Tamil Nadu or any state,” he said.