Tamil Nadu deputy chief minister O Panneerselvam has admitted that he did meet ousted AIADMK leader TTV Dhinakaran last year but has denied that allegations that he had tried to have another meeting in the last week of September in an effort to wrest power from Chief Minister E Palaniswami.
The deputy chief minister held a press conference on Friday in response to the allegations Mr Dhinakaran made earlier in the day.
Mr Panneerselvam said that he met the ousted AIADMK leader without informing his colleagues in July last year at the request of a builder, who is a mutual friend.
"I thought he (Mr Dhinakaran) had repented but he had not. He only wanted to become the chief minister while I fought to free the party from the clutches of VK Sasikala's family ".
It must be remembered that after the death of J Jayalalithaa, Mr Panneerselvam had launched a "Dharma Yudham (holy war)" against Ms Sasikala, Mr Dhinakaran and rest of their family.
Earlier in the day, the ousted AIADMK leader had alleged that Mr Panneerselvam reached out to him through the same mutual friend in order to bring down the Tamil Nadu government headed by chief minister Palaniswami.
Responding to this charge, Mr Panneerselvam said, "I would never indulge in such cheap tactics to become chief minister. I did not try to meet him. I'm the deputy chief minister, why would I topple the government? I never imagined Dhinakaran would be so cheap".
Mr Dhinakaran, however, has a different version. He claims that the meeting in July last year was also Mr Panneerselvam's initiative.
The Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam (AMMK) leader said, "In July last year, OPS (Mr Panneerselvam) wanted to meet me. In the meeting, he expressed regret for his campaign against VK Sasikala's family and wanted to join hands. The meeting lasted about 15-20 minutes".
Mr Dhinakaran accused the Tamil Nadu deputy chief minister of "playing a double game".
"He wants to join us, but at the same he attacks us on stage. It appears he wants to become the chief minister. That's why he's running here and there," Mr Dhinakaran said.
Mr Panneerselvam, who became chief minister after J Jayalalithaa's death in December 2016, rebelled against the party in February last year. His ire was targeted at the then party chief VK Sasikala who attempted to replace him as chief minister. He and his supporters fought bitterly against VK Sasikala's nominee - Edappadi Palaniswami.
However, Mr Palaniswami and Mr Panneerselvam patched up once VK Sasikala was sent to jail after being convicted in a disproportionate assets case.
The conditions for their rapprochement were that VK Sasikala's family would be expelled from the party and there would be a probe into the circumstances that led to J Jayalalithaa's death.
In the bargain the three-time chief minister had to settle as Mr Palaniswami's deputy in the government, while becoming the chief coordinator of the party.
However, Mr Dhinakaran has now won a partial victory with Mr Panneerselvam admitting that the July 2017 meeting did take place. Many say this could dent the deputy chief minister's credibility and strain his equation with chief minister Edappadi Palaniswami.
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