J Jayalalithaa’s niece Deepa launched a new political forum while rival factions in ruling AIADMK provided welfare assistance across Tamil Nadu on her 69th birth anniversary on Friday in an escalating fight for her legacy. As a war of words broke out, the state government led by Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami, his predecessor and dissident leader O Panneerselvam and AIADMK observed the birth anniversary of the late chief minister in different ways including holding of medical camps and planting of saplings.
Addressing a crowded press conference at her home, Deepa said her political journey had “begun” and also unveiled a flag depicting the images of Jayalalithaa and M G Ramachandran which she said was only a flag of the Forum named as ‘MGR AMMA Deepa Forum’. Responding to a query, Deepa said the people desired that she contest from R K Nagar constituency that fell vacant following the demise of the late AIADMK supremo.
Deepa said she has been receiving several requests to enter politics and today’s announcement was to respect their wishes. Deepa, who will be the treasurer of the Forum, said her next course of action would be decided in due course and she would reveal it at the “appropriate time”. In a veiled attack on Panneerselvam, AIADMK general secretary V K Sasikala, who is lodged in a Bengaluru prison, said, “When enemies and traitors wanted to defeat the party and the government, Amma’s soul guided us and has put up the AIADMK government in the seat of power.”
“Let us vow to protect the party, and work for the people,” she said in her letter published in Friday’s edition of party mouthpiece “Dr Namadhu MGR” Panneerselvam hit out at Sasikala and her family without naming her for trying to take over the party against Amma’s (Jayalalithaa) wishes. “Dharma Yudham will continue (to retrieve the party and government),” he said and reiterated his demand for a judicial inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the death of Jayalalithaa.
Paying floral tributes to Jayalalithaa, Panneerselvam gave away welfare assistance to the people at Tondiarpet in North Chennai. Palaniswamy planted a sapling at the Omandurar Government Estate here marking the launch of a drive to plant 69-lakh saplings and a greening project in areas hit by last year’s Vardah cyclone commemorating Jayalalithaa’s birth anniversary. AIADMK presidium chairman K A Sengottaiyan led the birth anniversary celebrations at party headquarters here in which the chief minister and other senior leaders took part.
Once a supporter of Sasikala, Jayalalithaa’s nephew Deepak Jayakumar has now said her attempt to become the chief minister was “unacceptable” to the people of Tamil Nadu, while claiming that the late AIADMK chief had left behind her properties to him and his sister. He claimed that the former chief minister had bequeathed her properties, including her Veda Nilayam bungalow in Poes Garden here, to his sister Deepa and him, by leaving behind a will.
Sasikala was set to become chief minister succeeding Pannerselvam but the Supreme Court verdict in the disproportionate assets case dashed her hopes. Deepa earlier said the Sasikala camp does not deserve to be in “Amma’s place” (Jayalalithaa) at all. “Certainly not good for the people because this kind of takeover(by Sasikala camp), this kind of hijacking the party is absolutely not acceptable for anyone, especially the cadre of AIADMK because their wishes have been totally ignored.”
Deepak said party members did not favour TTV Dinakaran’s appointment as AIADMK’s deputy general secretary. While speaking to TV news channels on Thursday, Jayakumar questioned reinduction of Dinakaran, who is nephew of Sasikala, and S Venkatesh into the party. While Deepa can aspire for positions in the AIADMK, Venkatesh and Dinakaran could not, he said apparently referring to the removal of the two by Jayalalithaa in 2011. “They are trying to bring family rule.. probably they both forced Sasikala to hand over the party to them,” he alleged, adding, “Even the party cadres will not accept this.”