From Left to Right: O Panneerselvam, TTV Dhinakaran, V Dhivakaran (Photo Courtesy: The News Minute)
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Sasikala’s Clan Holds the Fort Despite Fissures in the Family 

In less than two hours, AIADMK Deputy General Secretary TTV Dhinakaran went from defiance to compliance.  VK Sasikala’s nephew went from saying “I will take the best decision in the interest of the party and government” prior to leaving for the FERA case hearing to “I will keep quiet; I will cooperate” about an hour and a half later.

Did Dhinakaran simply see the writing on the wall or is there more to his sudden change of heart? It’s not just reporters in Tamil Nadu who are analysing the Mannargudi man’s words but also former Chief Minister O Panneerselvam’s faction, whose main demand was to oust Sasikala and her family from the party.

The mood at OPS’ Greenways Road residence on Wednesday is one of uneasy caution. His brief press statement about 30 minutes after Dhinakaran announced his decision to step aside was revealing in his choice of words. “Our fight for justice has seen its first victory,” stated OPS.

But despite the “first victory”, Team OPS remains guarded.

As senior leaders packed up just after 1 pm, former minister Mafoi Pandiarajan confirmed that a meeting will be held with their faction’s MLAs and MPs on Thursday morning. And while metres away, Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami was in a huddle with several cabinet ministers, a leader from OPS’ camp noted that formal talks had not begun yet.

OPS Team's Apprehensions

Although the main bone of contention is over who occupies the Chief Minister’s chair, the apprehensions for a merger run deeper. The suspicion, it appears, is over the manner and pace at which the EPS faction agreed to sideline Dhinakaran and Sasikala and hold talks. While the former CM had laid out three demands on Tuesday afternoon, Finance Minister Jayakumar’s announcement to oust Sasikala’s family from the affairs of the party and government by the same evening, has come as a surprise to many.

Is the merger simply a ruse by Dhinakaran to reclaim AIADMK’s frozen two leaves symbol? Or is it an attempt to derail the momentum that the OPS camp has garnered in the last few months?

Could it also be an attempt to defuse pressure on TTV himself – what with a retrial being ordered in the FERA case, the IT raids on his loyalist Health Minister Vijayabaskar’s residence ahead of the RK Nagar bypolls and the latest EC bribery case.

After all, TTV’s first move following Jayakumar’s announcement on Tuesday night, was to go into a huddle with his loyalists, which included 8 MLAs. A man who had called for a meeting of MLAs and district secretaries was suddenly retreating from the battle.

Fissures in the Mannargudi Family

On Tuesday night, minutes after Jayakumar made the dramatic announcement, Jeyanandh Dhivakaran, son of Sasikala’s brother Dhivakaran wrote on Facebook,:

Except Sasikala no one else. The decision taken by ministers now to set aside Sasikala’s family was suggested by us before months, it is a late but wise decision.

The move to oust TTV Dhinakaran, Sasikala’s nephew was welcomed by her brother’s family. TTV and Dhivakaran are two factions within the family and there is much speculation that Dhivakaran has also played his cards against TTV.

Though Dhivakaran was initially seen as someone who would be part of government and will assist Sasikala, a speech he made in Thanjavur in January 2017, spoiled his chances.  Dhivakaran boasting about the family’s association with Jayalalithaa upset Sasikala, according to sources, leading her to choose TTV as party leader in her absence.

OPS and co are likely to tread cautiously in the days to come. After all, his survival and that of the government is at stake. There is no guarantee that the Mannargudi family won't pull the rug from under his feet months later, once the dust settles.

(This article was originally published in The News Minute)