- TTV Dinakaran Released From Jail Last Week, Meets 20 Lawmakers Today
- AIADMK's 2 Rival Factions Agreed To Sideline Him In Attempt At Merger
- But With No Progress In Talks Of Reunion, Some Lawmakers Look To Him
The AIADMK, which governs Tamil Nadu, fractured into two camps after the death of its leader and Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa in December. One faction is now headed by Chief Minister E Palaniswami ("EPS"), the other by his predecessor O Panneerselvam ("OPS").
It is EPS who decided that Mr Dinakaran would be diminished to a bit player, as required by OPS as a precondition for talks of a merger. But today, nearly 20 legislators of the EPS faction met Mr Dinakaran at his home in Chennai, triggering speculation of a third bloc emerging from within the AIADMK.
"I can do anything to save the party," said Mr Dinakaran, 53. His new drawing power is based in part that nearly 45 days after EPS and OPS initiated talks of a settlement, there has been no progress.
When Ms Jayalalithaa died in the hospital, VK Sasikala, her live-in aide, first picked OPS as the new Chief Minister and then, tried to appropriate the position for herself before being jailed for corruption. Before incarceration in February, she picked her nephew, Mr Dinakaran, as the party's Number Two (she remains party chief), and installed EPS as Chief Minister.
In March, Mr Dinakaran was running for office from Ms Jayalalithaa's RK Nagar constituency in Chennai when tax officials discovered what they described as evidence of voters being bribed. The election was cancelled and that scandal succeeded by another centred on Mr Dinakaran being arrested in April on charges of attempts to buy the AIADMK's two-leaf symbol from Election Commission officials. Today, the powerful Commission said that the RK Nagar election cannot be rescheduled because "the situation hasn't improved" - money is still being distributed illicitly as bait for votes.
Till the Commission decides which wing -EPS or OPS -is the authentic AIADMK, the party symbol remains off-limits for both.
Team EPS has 122 legislators, just five more than what he needs to remain in power should he have to take a trust vote. So the count of nearly 20 of his flock meeting Mr Dinakaran today will be read as a danger sign, both in terms of his own position, and the resurgence of Mr Dinakaran as a top boss.
Yesterday, ministers loyal to EPS said that their earlier decision for Mr Dinakaran to keep away from party affairs remains unchanged. Finance Minister D Jayakumar asserted, "We are firm, and we are clear. We have no truck with him, we are not dependent on him."
He also asked Mr Dinakaran to honour the commitment he had made earlier to respecting the wishes of top leaders who ruled him out of the mainstream.
But Mr Dinakaran, now emboldened, countered that the ministers speaking against him were coerced or bullied to support EPS against him. He also said that his aunt, who he met in prison yesterday, has set a 60-day deadline to chart their course of action.