In another twist to an already tortuous narrative, AIAD-MK MLAs met on April 18 to oust Sasikala, their party's currently imprisoned interim general secretary, and T.T.V. Dina,karan, her apparently corrupt nephew and deputy. "We are going to sideline the Di nakaran family for the benefit of the party," says Tamil Nadu finance minister D. Jayakumar, though like many others in the AIADMK, he had once endorsed Di nakaran's meteoric elevation. But the situation had become untenable, as MLAs grew apprehen-sive about the future of the AIADMK government when the Election Commission cancelled the April 12 bypoll in RK Nagar, the former constituency of Jayalalithaa, who died in December 2016, leaving her party, and consequently the state, rudderless. There was sufficient evidence, the EC decided after in-come tax raids on state ministers, that bribery was rampant. Dinakaran was accused of spending nearly Its 90 crore to buy votes. He had already been accused of being willing to pay up to Rs 50 crore to persuade EC officials to rule in the AIAD-MK's favour in the dispute over the party's 'two leaves' symbol.
The dispute was between the party led by Sasikala, Chinnamma to those who saw in her a successor to their beloved Amma, and the breakaway faction led by O. Panneerselvam
(OPS), who was declared chief minister upon her death. Having stood by as his colleagues clamoured for Sasikala to take on Jayalalithaa’s mantle, he staged a startling about-face in February, claiming he had been forced by Sasikala to resign. In the end, OPS did not have the numbers. The Supreme Court, then, made its own dramatic intervention, sentencing Sasikala to four years in prison for corruption, effectively scuppering her bid to be CM.
Now, OPS and chief minister E.K. Palanisamy are in talks to reunite the party. They recognise the AIADMK is in dire straits. At least four ministers are being tracked for illegal cash transactions after demonetisation. Tax inspectors found Rs 152 crore in the homes of ministers and their aides.
For OPS it became a point of principle that any rapprochement with the AIADMK would sideline Sasikala and her relatives, the so-called ‘Mannargudi mafia’. After the announcement
With Jaya gone, finding common ground is a big ask
that Sasikala and Dinakaran would be kept from government and from playing any role in the party, OPS pronounced it the “first step in our dharma yuddha (fight for justice)”.
Dinakaran appears to have accepted his fate, but the AIADMK has much work ahead to unite the party. For a start, who will be its leader? Will it be OPS, who Jayalalithaa chose thrice as her stand-in and who claims to have the backing of the Central government? Others within the AIADMK, notwithstanding the Dravidian ideology of working towards a casteless society, count it as an asset that Palanisamy represents the Gounders caste.
Finding common ground in a party no longer held together by Jayalalithaa’s charisma and force of will is a tough task. But, since no AIADMK legislator wants to risk an early election, a way will have to be found to prop up the government. Even rivals DMK will not welcome the expense of another election. But the Tamil Nadu government needs to restore its credibility soon or risk losing the confidence and patience of an increasingly restive public.
JAISON G A TOGETHER WE CAN O. Pan nee rselva m (left) with chief minister E.K. Palanisamy