Are talks between the two warring factions of the AIADMK heading for a collapse?
Nearly 48 hours after Finance Minister D Jayakumar’s dramatic announcement that AIADMK General Secretary VK Sasikala and her nephew, Deputy General Secretary TTV Dhinakaran, have been sidelined from the party, there appears to be no attempt by the ruling faction to seek their resignations.
On Thursday, following a meeting of MLAs and MPs, who pledged allegiance to former chief minister O Panneerselvam, senior leader KP Munusamy announced that there could be no talks until Sasikala and TTV Dhinakaran submitted their resignations.
Speaking to reporters, the former Minister said:
The Sasikala faction is staging a drama in the disguise of a merger. They claim to have removed Sasikala’s family, but they have to take back the affidavit submitted to the Election Commission calling Sasikala as General Secretary and TTV Dhinakaran as Deputy General Secretary.
Spelling out more terms for a merger, Munusamy said that the other faction must get their resignations, and issue a statement that the Sasikala family has been removed from the party.
“If this is done, we'll accept that our demands have been met,” he said. The senior leader pointed out that Jayakumar had not mentioned Sasikala’s name during his press meet on Tuesday and had limited his announcement to Dhinakaran’s ouster.
Team OPS also demanded a CBI probe into late CM Jayalalithaa’s death. While the faction had earlier demanded a judicial probe into her death, Munusamy said that the state government should request the Centre to order a CBI inquiry into Jayalalithaa’s hospitalisation and subsequent demise.
The latest demands come over suspicions that Sasikala and Dhinakaran’s “ouster” from the party was staged by the other faction. As reported by The News Minute on Wednesday, the OPS faction remained guarded despite their initial claims of a “first victory” following Dhinakaran’s announcement that he would keep away from the party affairs.
EPS Camp Dodges Questions on Resignations
Prior to the OPS camp’s fresh list of demands, Finance Minister Jayakumar on being asked whether they would insist on Sasikala and Dhinakaran’s resignations, said, “I clearly spelt out (on Tuesday night) delinking of that family.” He added that the question, therefore, did not arise.
Jayakumar’s clarification came after he met with Governor Ch Vidyasagar Rao at the Raj Bhavan. While insisting that the meeting was purely official for “departmental” reasons, the Finance Minister said that the political upheaval was not discussed with the Governor. While the two sides are yet to hold formal talks, Jayakumar when asked when the deal will be finalised, said, “If they come, we are ready to talk”.
Lok Sabha Deputy Speaker M Thambidurai, who paid a “courtesy call” to the Governor just minutes before his party colleagues’ meeting, refused to answer the question on seeking Sasikala and Dhinakaran’s resignation. He, however, reiterated that Palanisamy would remain the CM when asked if their faction was open to OPS taking over.
Hours later, Thambidurai’s reply was met with scorn by Munusamy, who lashed out at the Lok Sabha Deputy Speaker, stating, “We never asked for Chief Minister or General Secretary post. We wanted the doubts to be cleared on Jayalalithaa’s death. Why should Thambidurai talk about Chief Minister post? Nobody respects Thambidurai.”
Sasikala Family Wrangling
Meanwhile, as reported by The News Minute earlier, speculation is also mounting over fissures with the Mannargudi family and whether the decision to sideline Dhinakaran was at the behest of Sasikala’s brother Dhivakaran. This after 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.”
Speaking to TNM, a source close to Dhivakaran denied that a “drama” was being played out by the ruling faction. He, however, hinted that Dhinakaran was paying the price for sidelining his jailed aunt and taking control of the party.
Following Jayalalithaa’s demise in December last year, Dhivakaran was initially seen as someone who would be part of the government and assist Sasikala. But a speech he made in Thanjavur in January 2017 spoilt 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.
Whether the AIADMK factions will merge remains uncertain. What is certain though is that the wrangling within the Mannargudi family is playing out as politics in the ruling camp.