- AIADMK's two rival factions discussing a merger
- Agree to sideline leaders Sasikala and nephew Dinakaran
- Dinakaran indicates he accepts the decision, blames BJP too
Last night, senior ministers- at least 10 of them- met in Chennai and decided that Mr Dinakaran, who is the party's No 2, and his aunt, VK Sasikala, who is the party chief, would be evicted from their positions. That move is aimed at facilitating a merger with a rival, though much smaller faction of the AIADMK, led by former Chief Minister O Panneerselvam.
Both sides insist they are the authentic party. The Election Commission has not yet decided that dispute. Mr Dinakaran denied today that he has spawned a third camp -one that says it wants to retain him as a senior leader of the AIADMK. Instead, he said, "If they had asked me, I would have removed myself."
When J Jayalalithaa died as Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, her party, the AIADMK, quickly promoted her live-in aide, VK Sasikala, as its chief. O Panneerselvam, who was a regular stand-in for Ms Jayalalithaa while she was alive, was made Chief Minister. But then Ms Sasikala decided to become Chief Minister herself, prompting a revolt by Mr Panneerselvam. A dramatic plot twist was provided by the Supreme Court which in Febraury sentenced her to jail for corruption.
Before heading to prison, Ms Sasikala placed her nephew in charge of the party and a loyalist, E Palaniswami as Chief Minister.
But Mr Dinakaran's disrepute - he has been named in serious corruption swindles including an alleged attempt to buy the party symbol by bribing Election Commission officials- has isolated him within the faction of the AIADMK that is in power. Today, the group is expected to decide on whether a reconciliation with the estranged team of Mr Panneerselvam will go ahead. While he insisted on the removal of Ms Sasikala and her nephew from the party -a condition that has been resolved- what remains contentious is whether he will be made Chief Minister, which means Mr Palaniswami would have to step down.
"The BJP is attempting to create confusion in AIADMK. The party cadre is firmly behind TTV Dinakaran," claimed Nanjil Sampath, a spokesperson for Mr Dinkaran's team. When Mr Panneerselvam formed his own faction, the Sasikala camp blamed the BJP for instigating the divide, alleging that he had been nudged by the centre to revolt. Mr Dinakaran has extended that accusation today to accuse the BJP of inciting dissidence against him.
Apart from a growing discontent within his colleagues, there was large public resentment over the pre-eminence given to Mr Dinakaran and Ms Sasikala's family, known as the "Mannargudi Mafia" for the village and its alleged affiliation to different corruption swindles.