August 15, 2017 3:43:36 am
IN A major setback to the AIADMK’s merger plans and proposed ouster of party chief V K Sasikala, at least 23 of its MLAs and four MPs shared the dais with about 200 party leaders at a rally organised by deputy general secretary T T V Dinakaran in Melur village, near Madurai, on Monday evening.
According to initial estimates, at least 25,000 people turned up for the rally, ostensibly to mark MGR’s birth anniversary but essentially Dinakaran’s show of strength, making it the biggest party rally since late Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa’s poll rallies in 2016.
The rally comes at a time when the two factions, led by Chief Minister E K Palaniswami and former Chief Minister O Panneerselvam, seem set to seal a merger deal by ousting Sasikala and her family from the party.
Dinakaran, who is Sasikala’s nephew, is facing pressure from both the factions. Last week, the ruling ‘EPS group’ said his appointment as party deputy general secretary was “not acceptable”. The ‘OPS group’ has made the ouster of Sasikala’s entire family a pre-condition for the merger.
While he did not name EPS and OPS, Dinakaran, in his speech today, recalled that they were both elected to top posts in the party with Sasikala’s help. He said if Sasikala was hunger for power, “she could have made me or someone from our family chief minister (but) she didn’t do that.”
Amid speculation that he may try to topple the government — the AIADMK has a total of 134 MLAs in the 235-member House — Dinakaran said: “This is our government, we must not destroy this government. But those who control this government should realise that the party is first. This party has made them MLAs and ministers… I am in the process of bringing them down to the level of cadres, to make them free from their arrogance, and make them servants of the people. I cannot strengthen my party without doing that. The party is first, and there is no party without cadres.”
“Forget that you have power,” he said. “Legislators don’t make a party… You can’t do anything, because people are our bosses,” he said, asking the gathering if they had seen such a huge crowd at a similar function organised by EPS to mark MGR’s birth anniversary recently.
“Don’t be afraid for your own safety,” he said, suggesting that some AIADMK ministers were afraid of the Centre. “Just work for the people, nobody can harm you then.”
Dinakaran, however, did not directly target the BJP. He said that he supports a cordial relationship with the Centre.
He accused the government of trying to stop MLAs and party cadres from attending the rally. Days after EPS described him as ‘420’, referring to IPC Section 420 on cheating and dishonesty, Dinakaran said today that “420 is their behaviour”.
Stating that it was his responsibility to ensure the party’s success in the next Lok Sabha elections, he said they should first work to get back their poll symbol.
Dinakaran also demanded a judicial probe into Jayalalithaa’s death, one of the two demands raised by the OPS faction. “On February 23, when I was elected, I told the media that we are ready for any kind of probe. You order a judicial probe, I demand that, because only then will the truth come out. But stop fighting with your own shadows,” he said.
Before ending his speech, he appealed to the two factions to “return to the party”. “Give it a thought, there is time… Come back to us, realising the wish of the people. I am telling you this, as a warning, on behalf of the party’s cadres.”
Meanwhile, Panneerselvam met Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi on Monday. “The prevailing atmosphere in Tamil Nadu under the present regime, the general political situation, the feeling of AIADMK cadre, the opinion of the public…all these things have been expressed to the Prime Minister,” he said.
Rajya Sabha MP V Maitreyan added that “it will be very demeaning to say that the Prime Minister is involved in solving the internal affairs of another political party.”
— With ENS, New Delhi
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