CHENNAI: Throwing a challenge at Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami, AIADMK deputy general secretary T. T. V. Dhinakaran on Friday announced new set of office bearers bringing in most of his loyalists and declared that he would undertake a state-wide tour from August 14 to mobilise party cadre in his favour.
Addressing a press conference on a day of fast developments, Dhinakaran said he would visit the party headquarters on Avvai Shanmugam Salai “whenever he wished” and nobody, including the police, had any right to prevent him from entering the premises “which is like my home.”
He also said he “kept quiet” for the past two months only to pave way for the merger of the EPS and OPS factions of the AIADMK and since the unification did not happen, he has now announced the tour plan as planned earlier. Insisting that he alone was “capable” of unifying the AIADMK, he announced appointment of additional office bearers to prepare the party for a sweep in the 2019 parliament elections, “which is my aim”.
Through the 30-minute press conference, Dhinakaran asserted he was still the “boss” and “everyone would fall in line” eventually since “we are the only people who can unite the AIADMK.”
“I will continue to lead the party in the absence of general secretary Chinamma even if the merger takes place. Everyone should understand that the only person who has the right to expel anyone from the party is the general secretary and in her absence, only I can expel. And no one can expel us,” Dhinakaran said.
Answering a volley of questions on the Chief Minister and the Ministers distancing themselves from the family, he said only few ministers, including Finance Minister D Jayakumar, had said they (Sasikala and he) should be kept away from the party.
“I have been maintaining that these ministers were speaking out of fear. And now I pity their situation because they ditched us thinking that the King (BJP) would protect them. But, now they are left nowhere,” he said, in what appears declaring war against the BJP as well.
The AIADMK leader also reminded CM Palaniswami and his cabinet colleagues that it was Sasikala who had installed their government after the Supreme Court in the DA case convicted her in February 2015. “If she (Sasikala) had left the place (Koovathur resort without announcing the CM's name), they would have known (their real situation). It was Chinamma who installed this government and everyone should realise that,” Dhinakaran said.
There was “only some misunderstanding and no big fight” between the two AIADMK factions and even that could be “cleared very soon”, said Dhinakaran, adding ominously, “Taking action against anyone would not take even a minute, but that's not the right thing to do”. He said his “main goal” was to “unite” the two factions and he was already working on it.
Before addressing the press conference, Dhinakaran released two press statements in a gap of just an hour — first about the statewide trip he would launch from Melur in Madurai district and the second one about appointing the new set of office bearers “to prepare the party for the Parliament polls”.
“People who have worked for the party have been rewarded. My only aim is to ensure that the party sweeps the LS polls,” Dhinakaran said.
Dhinakaran’s message: whoever switches his side will be rewarded
Of the 60 new office-bearers announced by Dhinakaran, 20 are MLAs and ten are former ministers. Significantly, 22 of them have not figured in the list of his hardcore supporters in the party; which could mean that he might have resorted to a clever strategy for stretching his support base from an identified 40-odd seniors to a little over 60 by dangling party positions to these 22 as carrots to win them over and also send a clear message to the others that those who crossed over to his side would be similarly rewarded.
There is a second loud message in TTV's media meet on Friday. When he said that the position of the ministers who opposed Chinnamma and him was “pitiable because they trusted in Arasan (King, BJP) who only ditched them”, he was biting his thumb at the Centre even amidst reports insisting he could be arrested again in some other cases-he is out on bail in a case of alleged attempt to bribe Election Commission officials for getting the party's two-leave symbol for Chinnamma and there is a FERA case progressing in the court.
“TTV has announced tour programme covering all the state, except Lloyds Road (AIADMK headquarters)”, said a former minister in the EPS camp. “Obviously, be does not want a clear showdown. Also he is only posturing he is in control of the party, but he does not attempt to destabilize the government as he has not announced taking away any minister's party post”, he said requesting anonymity.
Said another party senior: “Suppose CM Edappadi expands cabinet now giving minister posts to a few prominent men in TTV's list? There will be a stampede of people running out from there, right?”