Chennai: The brewing storm in the ruling AIADMK threw up its first thunder as T.T.V. Dhinakaran on Saturday declared he is very much in control as party deputy general secretary and brushed aside minister D. Jayakumar’s assertion that he was no longer relevant.
Arriving to a tumultuous welcome by loyalists hailing him as Maaveeran for getting the bail in the case of attempt to bribe Election Commission, for which he was in remand custody at Delhi’s Tihar jail for 38 days, TTV said he would “resume serious party work, at full throttle” after meeting Chinnamma (aunt Sasikala) at the Bengaluru prison. The meeting at Parappana Agrahara jail, where she is lodged after conviction by the Supreme Court in the Disproportional Assets case, is expected on Monday, according to sources.
When a reporter asked his response to some ministers stating he was expelled from the party, he said, “Only the party general secretary (Sasikala) has the authority to expel me. I am very much in the party and in the post of deputy general secretary”.
“Will you resume party work, start once again?” asked another scribe. “There is no question of resuming. I continue to hold the position. I have been away only for about 40 days as I had to be in prison”, TTV retorted, adding, “I am back”. This is in sharp contrast to his response to the expulsion announcement (April 18) made by minister Jayakumar along with several cabinet colleagues, when he said he was voluntarily withdrawing if that helped the party.
The change of mind now, explained TTV at his interaction with the loyalists on Saturday, became inevitable as he found that the merger efforts got nowhere through all those days he was in jail in Delhi. “I thought they will all come together if I step aside. Nothing happened. Now I am back and I will take control”, he reportedly told his team.
There was another interesting element in his post-release mindset. When a reporter asked his comment on the opposition charge that the Edappadi Palanisami government is subservient to the Centre, TTV chose safe diplomacy rather than angry rhetoric. “No one is behaving in such submissive manner; we are functioning on friendly terms”. He had lambasted Delhi for his EC case arrest and the earlier cancellation of the RK Nagar by-election.
As soon as he arrived at his Adyar bungalow, TTV was closeted with his supporters in the party discussing strategy in the wake of the open ‘rebellion’ against the ‘family’. Legislators Thanga Tamizhchelvan (Andipatti) and P. Vetrivel (Perambur) along with former ministers Senthil Balaji, P. Palaniappan and Thoppu Venkatachalam were prominent among the 15 MLAs who met him. Six MPs, including A.P. Nagaraj (Coimbatore) also called on him.
The party has a total of 123 MLAs and 49 MPs (including 12 Rajya Sabha members), so TTV still has a long way to go even as the party rumblings are getting louder by the day.
Forest minister Dindigul C. Srinivasan is emerging as a big help. He dismissed colleague Jayakumar’s statement that TTV has been isolated and insisted, “He (TTV) has all the rights to carry out party work. He had only withdrawn for a while, voluntarily. None, barring the general secretary, has the authority to expel him”, Srinivasan told reporters at native Dindigul. When pointed out that Jayakumar had said none would meet TTV when he comes out on bail, he shot back: “That’s Jayakumar’s personal view. It’s not the party stand”.
That’s not the end of the debate. Senior minister K.A. Sengottaiyan’s take: “Only Chief Minister will decide whether he (TTV) will continue in the party”. And that would mean that the decision does not rest with Chinnamma. It may be recalled that the Election Commission is examining a petition from the rival O. Panneerselvam group challenging Sasikala’s election as general secretary....