TTV Dhinakaran, the chief of the AMMK, denied today that his tie-up with Asaduddin Owaisi's AIMIM would help Tamil Nadu's ruling AIADMK and its ally BJP by splitting the opposition votes in the state election next month. In an interview to NDTV, Mr Dhinakaran stressed that he had not defied his aunt VK Sasikala, who had called for a united fight against a common enemy.
As part of the seat-share deal with Mr Owaisi's party, Mr Dhinakaran has assigned three of Tamil Nadu's 234 seats to the AIMIM. Long viewed as a troublemaker for the state's ruling AIADMK, Mr Dhinakaran denied that he could end up helping the party.
"Our alliance is not tacitly helping the AIADMK or BJP," he said, not responding to a question on whether he would join the BJP alliance.
"There was no pressure from the BJP. No one talked to me on merging with AIADMK," he told NDTV, adding that he could not answer "hypothetical questions" on joining the BJP alliance.
The AMMK chief said he was "happy" about the alliance with the AIMIM as it is "already strong" in northern Tamil Nadu. "Owaisi has a broad view to develop his party at a national level," he said, adding that the alliance would extend to neighbouring Puducherry. "We finalised the alliance after several talks. They are very decent in dealing with alliance and constituencies. We are very happy," he said.
Mr Dhinakaran stunned the AIADMK when he won the RK Nagar seat in Chennai that fell vacant after the death of their powerful Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa. He will fight in two seats this time.
Asserting that his party would have to fight against both AIADMK and the DMK, Mr Dhinakaran said he was not defying Sasikala, who had announced last week that she was stepping back from politics and prayed for a united fight by the AIADMK to ensure the victory of "Amma (Jayalalithaa's) government".
"I am not disobeying Sasikala. She is my mother. Sasikala knows it's not possible for me to join the AIADMK alliance. DMK is our arch rival. We have to fight against AIADMK too in the battlefield," he said.
Sasikala's retreat from politics was seen as an attempt to insure herself from potential criticism that she helped the DMK capture power if election results turned favourable for the opposition.
On whether the BJP had a role in persuading Sasikala, who could have been a disruptor for the AIADMK in the polls, Mr Dhinakaran said: "It was Sasikala's own decision to stay away from politics. There was no BJP hand."
After he won Jayalalithaa's constituency in 2017, Mr Dhinakaran failed to do much in the 2019 national election but his vote share was 8.46%. His candidates placed third in most seats but their votes cut into those of the AIADMK.
"2019 polls were about the central government. We hope this time people will support us. We will win and give Amma's government," Mr Dhinakaran said.