Fanning speculation about mid-term elections in Tamil Nadu, at least 15 AIADMK MLAs, three ministers and as many party MPs — all with allegiance to Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami’s faction — are reportedly close to joining the V K Sasikala camp, even as T T V Dinakaran, the party’s controversial deputy general secretary and Sasikala’s nephew, on Monday said she has asked him to “wait and watch” for two months.
Dinakaran, who was released on bail from Delhi’s Tihar Jail on Thursday in a case of alleged bribery and reached Chennai on Saturday, visited Sasikala in Bengaluru jail Monday. Post-meeting, he said, “I visited Bengaluru to discuss the next course of action (in AIADMK and Tamil Nadu government) with Sasikala. She told me to wait and watch for two more months. We will wait for two months and take a proper decision.”
A senior state minister, with allegiance to Palaniswami, said 15 MLAs are in the Sasikala camp. “Ten (MLAs) are openly supporting Dinakaran. It is a matter of time for the other five to come out,” he said.
With the latest crisis threatening majority status of the government, a group of ministers from Palaniswami faction met him on Monday to take stock of issues, and emerged more stridently opposed to the Sasikala family. They warned AIADMK cadres against supporting either Dinakaran or any other family member of Sasikala.
But the minister who spoke on conditions of anonymity said that Health Minister Dr C Vijaya Baskar, seen as close to Sasikala, “refused to join us” for Monday’s meeting with the CM. Two other Cabinet colleagues are learnt to be standing by Dinakaran, besides several MLAs — these, he said, include at least two former ministers. They are ostensibly opposed to the ruling faction’s decision to keep Sasikala’s family and Dinakaran out of the party.
A Secretary-level officer in the state government, meanwhile, said that bureaucrats are “mentally preparing for early state polls”, and are taking decisions carefully, as things “may change unexpectedly”.
Finance Minister D Jayakumar, who addressed the media after the meeting with Palaniswami, said they stand by their decision of April 17 to keep Sasikala family members out of party affairs. “Party cadres should not be in touch with Dinakaran or Sasikala family (members),” he said. “We are running the government successfully — we are not benamis (front) for anyone. They have no role in the party, or the government.”
Dinakaran said Jayakumar seems to have assumed charge of the party on his own. “No one, except party chief Sasikala, has the powers to remove me from the party post (of deputy general secretary). They (ministers) were afraid of something, and they wanted me to stay away,” he said.
“But when I returned (on bail from Delhi) after 45 days, I was surprised at the huge welcome from party cadres. I am sure all party leaders will come together seeing the sentiments of people,” he said.
An ADGP said, “DGP T K Rajendran’s term ends this month end. J K Tripathy may be the next DGP, as others (said to be in race) are alleged to be close to DMK. We are keeping a safe distance with both OPS (Panneerselvam) and Edappadi camps.”