No signs of AIADMK merger yet, Dinakaran brought to Chennai for questioning
TTV Dinakaran, the disgraced deputy general secretary of the AIADMK (Amma) faction, was brought to Chennai by the Delhi Police for further interrogation in the cash-for-symbol case.
A five-member team of the Delhi Police flew to Chennai with Dinakaran, and took him to the CBI office in the city, and later to his residence, to find out how he allegedly transferred Rs 10 crore out of the Rs 50 crore promised to middleman Sukesh Chandrasekhar to bribe the Election Commission and get the frozen 'two leaves' symbol for his faction.
At the CBI office, the police team questioned him for two hours, even as lawyers and Dinakaran's supporters staged a protest over denial of access to him. It then took him to his residence, with a search warrant obtained from a local court. It also got a warrant to search the residence of his friend Mallikarjuna, who was also allegedly involved in transferring money to Delhi from Chennai through 'illegal channels', reports quoting the police said.
The Delhi Police arrested Dinakaran on Tuesday after confronting him with a transcript of a telephone conversation between him and Chandrasekharan, and got a five-day remand from a special judge on Wednesday.
After questioning him in the CBI office, to keep the local police out of the picture, the team took Dinakaran to his residence nearby in search of his mobile phone and other records, and to continue the interrogation in the presence of his wife Anuradha, who heads Jaya TV.
No clinching evidence
From the investigations so far, it is apparent that the police has no clinching evidence to show that Dinakaran or Chandrasekharan had approached any Election Commission official.
The only concrete evidence it claims to have unearthed is Rs 1.30 crore recovered from Chandrasekharan after his arrest. He has denied that it was given to him by Dinakaran. He has further alleged that he has been framed because of his criminal background.
The Delhi Police has time till 1 May to wrap up the case. Reports say the money trail may take the team to Bengaluru and Kochi.
Dinakaran has flatly denied knowing Chandrasekharan, though the police claim he admitted to it under intense questioning.
Effect on possible merger
If the idea behind shifting Dinakaran from Chennai was to clear the decks for the merger of the two AIADMK factions, it has had the opposite effect.
Though the two sides have formed teams to hold talks, they are yet to start.
Leaders of the faction headed by Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami have disowned Dinakaran and his aunt K Sasikala, but the opposing faction, headed by O Panneerselvam, has said that's not enough – the pair should be legally removed from the party.
This, however, is easier said than done. It is a laborious process, as the party would have to call a meeting of its general council and district secretaries, and adopt a formal resolution.
The OPS group says the easier way out is for the Palaniswami faction to file an affidavit before the Election Commission that Sasikala and Dinakaran are no longer connected with the party.
The EC, which has frozen the 'two leaves' symbol following the split and conflicting claims, cannot take cognisance of a group of ministers making a representation like this.
The OPS camp has already questioned the legality of Sasikala's appointment as general secretary, as she was not a primary member of the party for five years preceding her elevation. She had been removed from the party by former Chief Minister and AIADMK general secretary J Jayalalithaa in 2011, and was readmitted only in March 2012.
Sasikala staged a coup and captured the party in February 2017, soon after Jaya's death in December 2016.
As Sasikala's appointment as general secretary is violative of party by-laws, her naming Dinakaran as her deputy will not stand judicial scrutiny, the OPS faction contends.
Demand for inquiry into Jaya's death
The other demand of the OPS faction is a CBI inquiry into circumstances leading to the death of Jayalalithaa. This is to cash in on the public perception that Sasikala stood to gain by Jayalalithaa's death.
Leaders of the Palaniswami faction say that Panneerselvam was the acting Chief Minister when Jaya was in hospital, so he could have ordered such an inquiry after her passing.
The symbol case is a fallout of the tortuous negotiations between the two groups.
CM's chair for one group, general secretaryship for the other
Despite the revolt by the Palaniswami group, Sasikala and Dinakaran have refused to resign. With Sasikala in jail, Dinakaran had to be moved out of the scene to facilitate the merger. The symbol case came in handy.
Even if hurdles are cleared, a merger will not come any time soon, as OPS wants to be Chief Minister again. He contends he was unfairly forced out by Sasikala.
The Palaniswami faction contends it has proved its majority in the Assembly, and to this day, 123 MLAs are with it, as former Minister KA Sengottayan has claimed.
Another issue is the general secretary post. So long as Jayalalithaa was at the helm, she was general secretary as well as Chief Minister. Sasikala had staked claim for the office of CM after getting the party post, on the grounds that two power centres would hamper the stability of the administration.
In the post-Jaya and post-Sasi scenario, this won't hold if the two factions want to come together. If one faction wants the CM post, the other will have to get the general secretaryship.
It is reckoned once Dinakaran is firmly put out of action through this case, everything will fall into place.
All that the Palaniswami faction has done to placate the OPS camp is to remove Sasikala's banner from the AIADMK office. But her shadow will linger for a while.