Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam (AMMK) leader T T V Dhinakaran claimed on Friday that Tamil Nadu Deputy Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam wanted to meet him in September in a bid to “oust” Chief Minister K. Palaniswami but the ruling AIADMK rejected it and hit back accusing him of trying to create confusion in the party.
Mr. Dhinakaran, who has been vowing to unseat Mr. Palaniswami since he was sidelined last year, also said Mr. Panneerselvam offered to make him the Chief Minister.
The AIADMK rubbished the claims, with Electricity Minister P. Thangamani coming up with a counter charge saying Mr. Dhinakaran recently offered to merge his Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam with All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and a spokesperson accusing the sidelined leader of making such comments to keep his flock together.
Mr. Dhinakaran said Mr. Panneerselvam had met him in July last year and sent a word through a common friend that he wanted to meet him again in September-end this year.
However, he refused to meet him in September, said Mr. Dhinakaran, nephew of ousted leader V K Sasikala.
“He (Panneerselvam) wanted to meet me to oust the chief minister,” Mr. Dhinakaran told reporters a day after his close aide and one of the disqualified MLAs Thanga Tamilselvan made similar claim during a TV debate.
Mr. Panneerselvam, who had merged his faction in August last year with the group led by Mr. Palaniswami, had informed he was ready to “oust” Mr. Palaniswami and promote Mr. Dhinakaran to a “significant” post, he maintained.
He claimed that during the meeting last year, the deputy chief minister had regretted revolting against then interim general secretary Sasikala and subsequent criticism against the family.
Mr.Dhinakaran said he was revealing the information now since Mr. Panneerselvam was being critical of him in public even while “trying for a rapprochement” and asserted that the latter cannot deny meeting him.
“His only interest is to become chief minister. He tried it last week also. I wanted to put a full stop to all of it, so I revealed (information about the meeting),” he said when asked about the motive of Panneerselvam in seeking the meeting.
He also claimed Mr. Thangamani and Minister for Municipal Administration SP Velumani, besides a few other MLAs, wanted to join Mr. Panneerselvam after Mr. Palaniswami was elected Chief Minister in February 2017 but he had prevented that.
Mr. Thangamani said Mr. Panneerselvam had revolted against the “very family,” referring to that of Sasikala, and joined hands with Palaniswami to deliver a pro-poor government.
“They (members of the Dhinakaran camp) tried to topple the government for the last one year and therefore he is making such charges now to create confusion. But the big secret is, a month back there was a request from Dhinakaran that his outfit be merged with AIADMK,” he told reporters.
AIADMK spokesperson R.M. Babu Murugavel said Mr. Dhinakaran was making such claims perhaps to keep his flock together in the event of the Madras High Court upholding the disqualification of 18 AIADMK legislators who had sided with him.
The court has recently reserved its orders on the petitions challenging the disqualification of the MLAs under the anti-defection law.
“Dhinakaran is trying to fish in troubled waters. He and his aides will say anything to stay relevant. He is perhaps doing this to keep his flock together in the context of the case regarding disqualification of 18 AIADMK MLAs,” he said.
Party sources claimed that a few of the disqualified MLAs were not happy with Mr. Dhinakaran and willing to shift to the Palaniswami-led camp, saying there was a high possibility of this in the event of the ruling side winning the case.
The 18 AIADMK MLAs had been disqualified by Speaker P Dhanapal last year for expressing lack of confidence in the chief minister.
Mr. Panneerselvam had in February 2017 fallen out of favour with Sasikala and resigned as the chief minister.
Mr. Palaniswami was subsequently made his successor by Sasikala, who also appointed Mr. Dhinakaran as AIADMK deputy general secretary, before leaving for Bengaluru to serve a four-year jail term in a disproportionate assets case.
However in August last year, the factions led by Mr. Panneerselvam and Mr. Palaniswami merged.
Later, a party general council, held under the leadership of the two, expelled Sasikala from the party and annulled all appointments made by her, including that of Mr. Dhinakaran.
Mr. Dhinakaran has been since critical of the Palaniswami government, and has repeatedly vowed to oust it.
He had defeated AIADMK nominee in the December, 2017, R K Nagar bypoll, necessitated by the death of late chief minister and party supremo J Jayalalithaa.