With Sasikala and TTV in Jail, Mannargudi Family Could Still Win

To understand what is happening now, one has to go back to 5 December 2016.

5 min read
VK Sasikala. (Photo: <b>The Quint</b>)

The residents of Avvai Shanmugam Salai in Chennai woke up on Wednesday morning to a sight that not many thought would happen in their lifetime. At the AIADMK party headquarters, the huge banners which adorned images of “Chinamma” Sasikala were brought down unceremoniously.

This was one of the small but key demands made by the AIADMK faction, led by O Panneerselvam, in the ongoing dialogue with the faction led by Edappadi Palaniswami.

Apart from signalling that the merger talks between the two factions seem to be going in the right direction, the sight of Sasikala’s face crumbling down into a mound of colourful plastic also hinted at the possibility that the reign of the Sasikala family in AIADMK, and thereby TN politics, may finally be coming to an end.

Or is it?


The History of Dhivaharan vs TTV

To understand what is happening now, one has to go back to 5 December 2016.

Hours before Jayalalithaa was declared dead by Apollo Hospital in Chennai, TNM reported that Sasikala’s brother Dhivaharan was becoming a key political operator, holding the party together. He had been speaking to the MLAs, ‘seeking’ their support, with necessary inducements for the new government.

And it was his significant effort and canvassing with the MLAs that came in handy throughout the Golden Bay Resorts saga, and later, during the confidence vote on the floor of the TN Assembly. In fact, his son Jeyanandh was said to be one of the key men in-charge at Golden Bay.

But soon after, TTV Dhinakaran started emerging as Sasikala’s right hand man, as TNM reported. It has now emerged that the rise of TTV within the ranks of Poes Garden was driven by the fact that Dhivaharan had started taking public credit for his ‘role’ in Jayalalithaa’s political career, with even his son Jeyanandh posting old pictures on Facebook to support the argument.

It also helped that TTV was a former MP, well-spoken, could act statesman-like and had Delhi links.

Since he has been a Member of Parliament before, he convinced Sasikala that he would be the best candidate to look after the party. She was devastated after the verdict, and was perhaps not thinking straight.
A top source in the family close to Dhivaharan

But a staff member who has worked with Jayalalithaa at Poes Garden for many years said, "I am no longer posted there. But I know that TTV has nothing to do with Chinnamma's office."

TTV’s rise obviously did not go down well with Dhivaharan, who thought that TTV was reaping the benefits of his work. They have a history of dislike towards each other, with both reportedly cold-shouldering each other for several years.

Further, Dhivaharan is known to be very close to Sasikala’s husband Natarajan, once the godfather of the Mannargudi clan. TTV meanwhile has the support of his brother-in-law, Dr Venkatesh, who is also the son of Sasikala’s brother Sundaravadanam.


When Dhivaharan Made His Moves

In an already divided clan, more fissures were created when Jayalalithaa cracked down on the Sasikala family in 2011 and there were suspicions over what prompted this action.

What seemed to have finally driven the nail in the coffin was an interview that TTV Dhinakaran gave to a Tamil TV channel, stating that Natarajan and Dhivaharan had nothing to do with the AIADMK.

“How can he say that? He should have acknowledged the family’s connection to the party and our leader Jayalalithaa. He could have said that the family will keep away from the party and government, but he should not have just written us off. We have had differences with her, but we were a part of her journey, and he cannot take that away from us,” the source close to Dhivaharan said angrily.

And it didn’t help that TTV reportedly shot down a proposal to give a post to Dhivaharan’s son Jeyanandh in the party’s youth wing, as reported by Times of India.

As the fissures deepened, the pressure mounted on the AIADMK: The O Panneerselvam camp started its offensive, there were I-T raids on leaders, and the possibility of more arrests was on the horizon.

It was then that Dhivaharan’s family started making their move – and during TV Mahadevan's funeral, Dhivaharan gave the green signal to his loyalists to move for TTV’s ouster, according to reports.

Victory of Real Mannargudi, and the Man Who Can Stop Them

And that is why, many insiders see what is happening now as the victory of the ‘real’ Mannargudi.

While Dhivaharan and his family are from Mannargudi, the TTV brothers – Dhinakaran, Sudhakaran and Bhaskaran – are based out of Theni and take care of the family’s operations in south Tamil Nadu.

Dhivaharan’s supporters are keen on insisting on this difference in geography – they believe that the Theni brothers cannot claim to be the ‘real’ Mannargudi clan.

“Look at what is happening. Dhivaharan and Natarajan are the real Mannargudi powers, and TTV’s fall has benefited them. The real Mannargudi is standing up now, they are still in power and have their links with key ministers,” said a source based in Mannargudi. 

The source also pointed out that Dhivaharan’s way of functioning is different. “TTV wants to be the face of the party, Dhivaharan wants to be the kingmaker. And that is why he is winning now,” said the source.

But amidst all this, the one man who can stop the Mannargudi juggernaut is O Panneerselvam.

“He has to ask for the post of both the chief minister and the general secretary of the party. Unless he gets both, Mannargudi family will still be in power,” says a political operator.

The OPS camp is well aware of the family's machinations and are being watchful about it.

As some family members claim that the rebellion of the EPS faction is only against TTV and not against Sasikala, the OPS camp also suspects that that's the case.

"Too many of these people owe their careers to Sasikala and will never ask her to resign. Though they keep saying that both Sasikala and TTV are being kept away from the party, why are they not asking her to resign?” the source questioned.

One of the members in the camp who had earlier worked closely with Jayalalithaa said,

They are playing a clever game by claiming that Sasikala is being kept away. But everything will end the moment the Election Commission gives a verdict against that faction. The family can fight and plot among themselves, but this game has gone from their hands. The commission is very upset that there was attempt to bribe. They may try distancing TTV or even Sasikala, but if they lose the symbol, nothing remains.

(This article is published in an agreement with The News Minute.)

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