Chennai: Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswamy on Monday propelled the 'cleansing' of the ruling AIADMK by getting his senior cabinet colleague D. Jayakumar, along with several other ministers, to declare party general secretary V.K. Sasikala and her nephew who is deputy general secretary, TTV Dhinakaran, persona non grata in the party.
“We have unanimously decided to keep Dhinakaran and his family away from the AIADMK in order to ensure the health and stability of our party and the government”, Minister Jayakumar told a crowded press conference shortly after emerging from a 90-minute meeting with CM Palaniswamy.
While 19 of the 29-member EPS Cabinet (not taking the CM into account) attended the meeting, the others were away at work out of station or at functions in the city. Dindigul C. Srinivasan, the lone minister who had spoken in support of TTV when he came out on bail on Friday, was also present at the CM's meeting now when the 'unanimous' decision to keep the Sasikala family out of AIADMK affairs was taken and Jayakumar was given the job of announcing that to the media outside.
Stressing that the party would have no truck with Dhinakaran and family, Jayakumar said, “We are firm and we are clear”. Dhinakaran had stated on April 17 that he would keep away from the party and he must stay with that decision and keep away, said the minister. He insisted that Sasikala and Dhinakaran were “not in the background” controlling the party”. “We have nothing to do with Dhinakaran, we are not dependent on him”, said Jayakumar.
However, Dhinakaran has rejected Jayakumar as representing the party and its government. Insisting that the minister was just an individual who was overstepping his authority, he said, “Only a few are saying these things out of fear. They will all realise their mistake and return to our fold. Jayakumar too will reform”, he told reporters after meeting aunt Sasikala at the Parappana Agrahara jail in Bengaluru.
“Only the party general secretary has the authority to expel me. And since she is in jail now, the entire authority to run the party rests with me now”, said Dhinakaran. And then he came out with an interesting 'revelation', saying that Sasikala, during their meeting, had advised him to wait for two months before making the next move.
“I had stated 40 days ago that I would keep away if that would facilitate the merger and ensure the party's well-being. Nothing has happened all these days barring the trading of charges between the two sides”, Dhinakaran said, justifying the reversal of his 'self-imposed exile'.
The AIADMK rank and file, besides political observers, is quick to read in the Monday developments a significant forward movement in the consolidation of anti-Sasikala forces in the party. “After this, it might become easier to resume the merger talks because dumping the Sasikala family was the prime demand of the OPS group”, said a minister requesting anonymity. “It may not happen in big hurry but certainly the momentum will pick up in the coming weeks. Thereafter, it will become easier for us to regain our party symbol, two-leaves. Stability for the government is also assured now”, he said.
‘Political expulsion, certainly’
While arguments over the legal validity of TTV's expulsion may go on for some time within the AIADMK, particularly from the shrinking camp of TTV, political observers say that the ruling party has “finally begun the process of cleansing itself”. The TTV camp, of course, insists that the ‘revolt’ pronounced by minister D. Jayakumar is inspired by the BJP top brass and strongly supported by the government at the Centre. “They are acting out of fear”, said TTV, reacting to Jayakumar's media conference.
“The question is not whether this is legal expulsion of Sasikala and Dhinakaran-that can be answered later (when the Election Commission decides on the petition questioning the legality of Sasikala's appointment as party general secretary). What is significant, important, is that this is political expulsion”, said Thuglak editor S. Gurumurthy. “Can Dhinakaran now go and sit in the party headquarters? I doubt it”, he added....