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Dinakaran fights back: 14 MLAs attend his mammoth rally at Melur upsetting AIADMK merger plans

The ousted deputy general secretary of the AIADMK (Amma) faction draws huge support at the rally.

india Updated: Aug 14, 2017 23:53 IST
KV Lakshmana
KV Lakshmana
Hindustan Times, Chennai
AIADMK,TTV Dinakaran,VK Sasikala
Fourteen AIADMK(Amma) legislators attended a mammoth rally party’s deposed deputy general secretary TTV Dinakaran addressed at Melur in Madurai on Monday(PTI Photo )

The influential Mannargudi family of Tamil Nadu politics on Monday fought back with 14 MLAs publically siding with ‘deposed’ AIADMK (Amma) deputy general secretary TTV Dinakaran, virtually putting spanner in the merger plans of two factions of the ruling party.

The legislators and five party MPs participated at a mammoth rally organised at Melur in Madurai as a show of strength of Dinakaran, nephew of jailed AIADMK chief VK Sasikala, who was convicted of corruption this February.

Earlier this month, Dinakaran was removed from the party post by a camp led by chief minister Edappadi Palanisami. The ouster was viewed as a move to placate the rival faction headed by former chief minister O Panneerselvam ahead of a possible merger.

“With thirty ministers, you cannot run a government. Don’t forget that it is cadres and supporters that help you win elections and form government,” Dinakaran thundered at the rally, amid whispers that he has support of at least 20 ruling party legislators.

“If the MLAs were given freedom of choice, many more would have joined the rally,” Dinakaran said, adding some were prevented from coming to the meeting.

Dinakaran’s show of strength also held significance for the Palanisami government, which has wafer-thin majority as principal opposition DMK’s recently threatened to move a no-confidence motion.

The chief minister earlier in February won a confidence vote securing 122 votes in a 234-member house. The OPS faction has the support of 11 MLAs.

The DMK-led alliance has 98 members – 89 of its own, 8 of Congress and one IUML.

But Dinakaran was quick to add that he would not “destabilise the Amma government.” It must carry out the policies and programmes of Jayalalithaa, he added.

The AIADMK is besieged by infighting since the death of party supremo J Jayalalithaa last December. The merger is also crucial for the party to get back its two leaves election symbol that the poll panel had suspended after the split.

“You cannot run the party from headquarters, but have to be with the cadres and people on the ground. You were made the chief minister by Sasikala, don’t you forget that,” Dinakaran said, alluding to the selection of Palanisami to head the party’s legislature party.

“Sasikala could have made me the CM when Jayalalithaa died,” he added.

Sasikala whose family hails from Mannargudi in Tiruvarur district has allegedly infiltrated into politics, business, administration and police.

With the overwhelming response he got for the rally, Dinakaran proved that the family still has grassroots support and control over the party. Crowd cheered his every word and even prostrated in front of his vehicle as they used to do when Jayalalithaa visited them.

Dinakaran, speaking from a podium that looked like a replica of St Fort George, the seat of power in Tamil Nadu, demanded a judicial probe into the death of Jayalalithaa in a veiled attack to OPS, who was the chief minister at the time of her death.

Incidentally, he refrained from attacking the BJP-led central government even though the saffron party is said to be nudging the two factions to unite with a hope to piggy ride on the strength of the ruling Dravidian party in the southern state where it has negligible presence.

BJP leaders in the state are expecting the big merger announcement during the visit of BJP national president Amit Shah to the state on August 22. Union minister of state Pon Radhakrishnan told media persons that Shah’s visit will change the contour of Tamil Nadu politics. “But there will be no change in government,” he said.

On Monday, Panneerselvam called on Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Delhi and reportedly briefed him on the progress of the merger move. He has been reportedly advised not to put impossible conditions for the merger.

The two AIADMK factions on their part put up a brave front saying Dinakaran’s rally would not have any bearing on their plan. “The merger moves have gathered pace. You will hear the good news soon,” said state finance minister D Jayakumar.

Supporters of Dinakaran however do not subscribe the optimism and not without reason. The support their leader received in Melur, if anything indicates the road to unity would be thorny for the ruling party.

“There will be another Koovathur moment in TN politics with underhand exchange of money,” said Prof Ramu Manivannan of Madras University.

It may be recalled that AIADMK MLAs were confined at a luxury sea-side resort at Koovathur by Sasikala and her men, till the Palanisami government won the trust vote.

First Published: Aug 14, 2017 23:34 IST