Tamil Nadu Cabinet Revolts, Dumps Dhinakaran and Sasikala; Talks on for Merger of EPS-OPS Factions of AIADMK

The AIADMK (Amma) group is open to a merger with the O. Panneerselvam faction but the details have not yet been worked out.

Chennai: In a dramatic turn of events, Tamil Nadu chief minister E.K. Palaniswami and his cabinet today revolted against AIADMK (Amma) deputy general secretary T.T.V.  Dhinakaran and decided to keep him and his family out of the party and the government.

Emerging from a “consultative” meeting chaired by Palaniswami, finance minister D. Jayakumar declared that this “unanimous” decision was taken in tune with the aspirations of the party cadres and people.

“A decision has been taken to fully keep away Dhinakaran and his family from the party and the government,” he told reporters tonight.

He claimed it was the desire of all party cadres, top functionaries, district secretaries, MPs, MLAs, and ministers.

A committee will be formed soon to run the day-to-day affairs of the party, he said.

Dhinakaran, who was expelled from the AIADMK by Jayalalithaa, was reinducted by Sasikala and appointed the party’s deputy general secretary just before she proceeded to Bengaluru to serve the remainder of her jail term after the Supreme Court upheld her conviction and sentence in a disproportionate assets case in February this year.

Replying to a question, Jayakumar, however, said the decision was not linked to the demand of rebel leader O. Panneerselvam that party general secretary V.K. Sasikala and her nephew Dhinakaran be kept away as a pre-condition for talks for merger of the rival factions.

Jayakumar, flanked by several ministers, said they were prepared to hold talks with Panneerselvam.

Senior ministers including Dindigul C Srinivasan, S. P. Velumani, R.B. Udayakumar, Thangamani, C. Ve Shanmugam and Rajya Sabha MP V. Vaithilingam were present.

The sudden announcement by Jayakumar came after efforts for the merger hit a hurdle with Panneerselvam insisting on his demand for the ouster of Sasikala, Dhinakaran and their family from the party and the government.

Thambidurai moots merger of factions

Mooting a patch-up with the rival Panneerselvam group, senior party leader M. Thambidurai on Tuesday said it will be in the party’s interest if both factions merge to take forward the legacy of  Jayalalithaa.

Ruling out any change of chief minister in the state for this possible patch up, Thambidurai said people from the opposing faction may be included in the organisation.

“I have initiated talks with the Panneerselvam camp. We all want to continue the legacy of late Amma and at the same time want to save the party’s symbol of two leaves. So in this largest interest, I think both factions should come together,” he said here, adding this is what party workers also want.

Earlier in the day, the ruling (Amma) faction announced constitution of a team to hold talks with rival Panneerselvam camp for a possible patch-up.

Since there was a “split between siblings,” it would not be fair on the part of either side to put terms and conditions for the merger talks, Sellur K. Raju said.

Meanwhile, the Panneerselvam camp took to Twitter to express its willingness to hold talks with the AIADMK (Amma) faction.

“The AIADMK (Amma) faction has constituted a team to hold talks. We are ready to hold consultations with that team if it meets us,” said the Twitter handle @OfficeofOPS.

Last month, the Election Commission had frozen the ‘two leaves’ symbol of the AIADMK as part of its interim order.

Both AIADMK – the one led by Panneerselvam, and AIADMK (Amma) –  were asked to come up with new party names as well as party symbols.

Case against Dhinakaran

On Monday, the Delhi Police today booked Dhinakaran for allegedly trying to bribe an Election Commission official in a failed bid to obtain the coveted “two-leaves” party symbol for his faction.

Officials of the Delhi Police Crime Branch escort Sukesh Chandra, the middleman accused of receiving a bribe after promising to retrieve the party symbol for AIADMK, in New Delhi on Monday. Credit: PTI

Officials of the Delhi Police Crime Branch escort Sukesh Chandra, the middleman accused of receiving a bribe after promising to retrieve the party symbol for AIADMK, in New Delhi on Monday. Credit: PTI

Police lodged an FIR against Dhinakaran soon after arresting an alleged middleman who, according to police, was purportedly helping the AIADMK leader reach out to an unidentified official in the Election Commission in return for an astounding Rs. 50 crore.

No arrest warrant has been issued against Dhinakaran. But police have in their custody Sukesh Chandrasekhar, the alleged middleman who was picked from a 5-star hotel in New Delhi yesterday, a senior police official said.

The developments added to the woes of  Sasikala – Dhinakaran’s aunt. Sasikala was a close aide of Jayalalithaa, whose death in December forced a by-election in the R.K. Nagar assembly constituency. Both, Sasikala’s Amma faction and its rival, the Panneerselvam camp, staked claim to the party’s two-leaves symbol because it represented Jayalalithaa’s powerful legacy.

But the Election Commission froze the symbol and asked the two factions to choose other symbols.

Police said Chandrasekhar had allegedly told Dhinakaran that he has contacts in the Election Commission who could help the Sasikala faction get the two-leaves symbol.

“It has been learnt that Sukesh had struck a deal for Rs 50 crore for helping the AIADMK faction to keep the ‘two leaves’ symbol,” a senior police officer said.

He said the middleman had got Rs 10 crore of the deal amount and “the remaining amount was to be given to him in a time-bound manner.”

Police have recovered Rs 1.30 crore from Chandrasekhar, along with two cars — a BMW and a Mercedes.

Dhinakaran, who is the deputy general secretary of his faction, denied the allegation, calling it an attempt to “destroy our organization politically.”

Dhinakaran also denied trying to bribe anybody and said he does not know Chandrasekhar.

The two factions of AIADMK were eventually allotted the hat and electric pole symbols, ahead of the April 12 by- election, which anyway was put in abeyance by the EC after it reported irregularities including money power to influence voters during the campaign.

Delhi police said a team may visit Chennai to question Dhinakaran.

“I didn’t bribe anybody,” said Dhinakaran. “How does a broker or somebody say the money was from TTV Dhinakaran? I don’t know anybody by that name (Chandrasekhar),” he told reporters in Chennai before leaving for Bengaluru to meet Sasikala, who is lodged in a jail there.

Dhinakaran said he had not received any summons or communication from the Delhi Police.

“I will answer if I get the summons. I will face it legally,” he said. “It is basically wrong to say that Sukesh has spoken to me. I don’t know any such person. I don’t know what the plan is and who is behind it,” he added.

Chandrashekhar, the alleged middleman, is an accused in several cheating cases and is known as a “flamboyant conman having a fetish for luxury cars,” according to police.

A senior police officer in New Delhi said the 27-year-old Chandrashekhar has cases of cheating and other crimes against him in Enforcement Directorate, Central Bureau of Investigation, Chennai Police and Bengaluru Police.

Police got on Chadrashekhar’s trail after they received a tip-off from an informer about certain Election Commission officials being approached.

Police also claim to have recordings of phone conversations between Dhinakaran and Chandrashekhar, police sources said, adding that some money was also paid in Kochi.

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