More MLAs call on Dhinakaran; minister sees nothing amiss

Chennai: Four more ruling AIADMK (Amma) MLAs today called on deputy general secretary TTV Dhinakaran, who is trying to re-assert his position after being released on bail in a bribery case despite facing a revolt by the Chief Minister K Palaniswami camp.

The MLAs’ meeting with Dhinakaran raised questions about the future stability of the Palaniswami government which has a slender majority after the rebellion by former chief minister O Panneerselvam. Dairy Development Minister KT Rajenthra Bhalaji sought to play down the the development, saying the MLAs met with Dhinakaran as he was the party’s deputy general secretary.

Some AIADMK (Amma) MLAs, including former ministers V Senthil Balaji and P Palaniappan, had met Dhinakaran yesterday even as some others were spotted with him in Bengaluru on June 5 when he called on jailed party general secretary and his aunt V K Sasikala.

Finance minister D Jayakumar had yesterday said such meetings were ‘personal’ and would not affect the stability of the Palaniswami government. Thiruparankundram legislator A K Bose, among the four MLAs who met Dhinakaran today, said the deputy general secretary continued to run the party and none could question him.

A top aide of Dhinakaran claimed that so far 25 MLAs have met him since he came out on bail on June 3 in a case related to alleged attempt to bribe some Election Commission officials to get back the party ‘Two-Leaves’ symbol. The AIADMK (Amma) faction has 122 MLAs in the 234-member assembly.

A section of the MLAs has been meeting Dhinakaran during the past few days amid a stand-off between him and the Palaniswami camp. The ministers had revolted against Dhinakaran and Sasikala in April after he came under the scanner of Delhi police in the alleged bribery case.

With Dhinakaran, who was appointed AIADMK post by Sasikala, going back on his earlier assurance to withdraw from party affairs, the ministers and senior party functionaries on June 5 held a meeting and reiterated their opposition to him. Dhinakaran, after calling on Sasikala, had mocked at their meeting and questioned their authority to remove office-bearers appointed by the general secretary.

He had also said Sasikala had asked him to wait for two months to see whether the merger of the party, as proposed by the Palaniswami and Panneerselvam camps, materialised. Bose claimed more MLAs will meet Dhinkaran in the coming days and also extended an invitation to his colleagues in the rival O Panneerselvam-led Puratchi Thalaivi Amma faction to join the Dhinakaran-led camp. “If the MLAs who are with Panneerselvam return, it will be good for them,” he said, adding, “Some of them want to return.”

He, however, refused to name any MLA. Bose said Dhinakaran stressed for “unity of all 122 MLAs” in the Amma faction and that he wanted them to serve people. Bose, accompanied by senior party leader and former Melur (Madurai) MLA S Samy, told reporters that Dhinakaran was running the party and that the ministers had no right to question it. “None of them has the right to ask Dhinakaran to stay away from the party affairs,” he said in an apparent reference to some revolting ministers asking the party deputy chief to stay away from AIADMK’s functioning. “We will remain united. I will also attend a meeting of MLAs convened by Chief Minister K Palaniswami, if invited,” Bose added.

Usilampatti MLA P Neethipathi, who also met Dhinakaran today, said there were no different factions in the ruling party and that “the only team is Amma (Jayalalithaa).” Rajenthra Bhalaji suggested there was nothing wrong in party MLAs meeting a senior office-bearer of the party. “They have only met the party’s deputy general secretary, isn’t it? (And) not anybody else. If people have some business with him, they will meet him,” he told reporters here. He also stressed that Sasikala was the party’s general secretary, a matter that has been challenged by the Panneerselvam camp before the Election Commission.

Responding to demands from the Puratchi Thalaivi Amma faction that Sasikala and Dhinakaran be removed from the party, Balaji said AIADMK was a “big party where there will be differing views.” “All this will come to an end. AIADMK will rise to the occasion whenever there is a problem,” he added.