Trouble in the ranks: 20 senior AIADMK ministers revolt against Dinakaran after tax raids
Several ministers in Tamil Nadu have revolted against the leadership of AIADMK Deputy General Secretary TTV Dinakaran following tax raids on one of his henchmen, the Health Minister C Vijayabaskar.
20 senior party functionaries, including 12 ministers, called on Dinakaran at his residence in Chennai on Saturday and told him that he and general secretary Sasikala, who is now in jail in Bengaluru, should step down to pave the way for the merger with the O Panneerselvam (OPS) group, reliable reports say.
The dissidents have told Dinakaran that this is the only way to reclaim the frozen “two leaves” symbol of the AIADMK and save the government.
Else, they will be playing into the hands of opposition DMK which is hoping the Edapaddi government falls leading to mid-term polls, they told Dinakaran.
The rebels also conveyed that OPS, who has acted as chief minister twice when late Chief Minister J Jayalalitha forfeited office following conviction in corruption cases, has the backing of the AIADMK supporters and among the masses. They also told Dinakaran that OPS has the capacity to carry everyone along with him, unlike him or Sasikala.
They have proposed that the party after re-unification, can be run by a politburo, Pannerselvam can be CM and Edappadi his deputy. According to them, a dual authority will not work and thus the need of a politburo.
However, Dinakaran is said to have turned down the 'request' and has said that he would weather the storm. The dissidents have set a deadline for Tuesday before going public with their revolt.
Besides tax raids and a slew of cases slapped against other ministers, Dinakaran himself is facing two criminal cases regarding FERA violation and they are going to be heard on a day-to-day basis from Tuesday by an economic offences court in the city.
Speaking to reporters, Dinakaran, however, dismissed the dissidence talk calling it media inspired and said that the senior ministers were with him for consultation.
Rebel ministers who are in touch with senior leader K Pandiarajan of the OPS camp, have decided to wait for a couple of days as Dinakaran has gone to Thanjavur to attend the funeral of his cousin Mahadevan who died after a heart attack on Saturday.
Sasikala, who is also implicated in the FERA case, is in distress and it is evident from the fact that she has chosen not to apply for parole to attend the funeral of Mahadevan, who was a son of her brother Vinodhagan.
The immediate reason for the ferment in the AIADMK Amma camp is the 7 April tax raids on the residence of Vijayabhaskar.
The raids led to the cancellation of the byelection to the Tamil Nadu Assembly from RK Nagar by the Election Commission on the ground that the atmosphere has been vitiated by large-scale bribery of voters by the party functionaries, including senior ministers on behalf of candidate Dinakaran.
The raids led to seizure of Rs 5 crore from Vijayabhaskar, personal assistants and chancellor of the MGR Medical University Geethalakshmi. Evidence that Dinakaran had tasked senior Ministers, including Chief Minister Edappadi Palanisamy, to spend up to Rs 89 crore, was also unearthed.
The tax men also raided the residence of film star and leader of the All India Samathuva Katchi Sarath Kumar on a tipoff that he got Rs 7 crore to pledge support to Dinakaran.
Under pressure from the IT department, the city police have registered an FIR against ministers Kadabur Raju, Kamaraj and Udumalpet Radhakrishnan, besides TN Government’s special representative Dalavai Sundaram, on the grounds that they barged into the house of Vijayabhaskar and Sarath Kumar during the raids and threatened officials.
They also tried to smuggle out a diary containing the list of names of ministers and the amount each had to spend in the Constituency.
However, the tax men had the last laugh as they had already made photo-copies of the diary and they leaked it to the media later. They have now slapped a complaint that these men had obstructed public servants from discharging their duty.
The bypoll fiasco
The cancellation of the byelection was a big setback to Dinakaran. He had planned to splurge the money to win and on the strength of that victory take over from puppet Chief Minister Edappadi Palanisamy.
The list of ministers tasked by Dinakaran to spend money in the election are already jittery. Vijayabaskar and Sarath Kumar are being repeatedly summoned by IT men for day-long grilling sessions and the ministers fear that the axe may fall on them at any moment.
Hence their decision to distance themselves from Dinakaran.
On the flip side, the cancellation has given a reprieve to Palanisamy who has secretly been rallying his Gounder community supporters against the Thevars who have been backing Dinakaran. The only exception is Lok Sabha Deputy Speaker M Thambidurai who is a Gounder and is a Dinakaran loyalist.
The irony is Dinakaran has gotten the message that there is more to the raids and the cancellation of the election than what meets the eye. He has chosen not to see the hand of Prime Minister Modi in all this. And in fact, he has said that the BJP has nothing to do with the freezing of the symbol by the EC.
The fact that the BJP has its sights set set on TN is an open secret. With no Jayalalithaa and DMK patriarch M Karunanidhi in virtual retirement, there cannot be a more favourable time than this for the BJP to strike.
BJP's plan is to destabilise the government, bring the state under President’s Rule for a spell and go for elections possibly by April next year, one year ahead of the next Lok Sabha polls. The unity moves in the AIADMK factions is aimed at stalling this.
Edited by Jhinuk Sen