`Koovathur Returns' is the name of TTV Dhinakaran's latest political production. In a land where sequels have a reasonable chance of success, Dhinakaran would hope the resort near Puducherry, where he is hosting his camp MLAs, keeps them safe from poachers.
Nineteen legislators owing allegiance to the Mannargudi scion met Governor Vidyasagar Rao on Tuesday to tell him they no longer support the leadership of Edappadi Palaniswami. Now ideally speaking, if the MLAs in any state are not happy with the leader of their legislature party, they should be seeking a meeting of the party to elect a new leader. Raj Bhavan can hardly do much about the leader elected by the legislators.
The letter tactfully did not demand a floor test, an indication that the TTV camp is not sure of its numbers yet. It was more of an attempt at posturing and a pressure tactic. It wants to let the world know that the government is technically in a minority. At the same time, by showcasing 19 members, it is warning the ruling faction not to take any action against VK Sasikala.
By not targeting the entire government, the Dhinakaran faction is making it clear that its enemy number one is EPS.
The Mannargudi family that is backing Dhinakaran also tried to set the cat among the pigeons when VK Dhinakaran, Sasikala's brother, offered the CM's post to Speaker Dhanapal. It was also perhaps a way to soften Dhanapal and ensure he does not throw the disqualification book at the rebel MLAs should they vote against the government on the floor of the House.
DMK's MK Stalin has already asked the Governor to take cognisance of the fact that EPS is running a government that is short on legislator fuel. The question is whether Rao will give the AIADMK a long rope just like he did in February when he was reluctant to swear in Sasikala as CM, in effect giving time to OPS to manage numbers.
Dhinakaran knows his 19 MLAs too would be lured or threatened. Already MLA from Chennai Vetrivel has spoken of receiving threats. Dhinakaran is batting for political survival and if he fails, he will end up taking down the entire Mannargudi family with him.
Sources say Dhinakaran has not revealed all his cards yet and at the opportune moment, many more MLAs - who he referred to as sleeper cells - will jump ship.
There is resentment even within the OPS camp at the deal that was hammered out. While OPS managed plum portfolios for himself besides the party chief's tag, MLA Semmalai who was hoping to become minister missed the bus. K Pandiarajan who resigned as Education minister to join Panneerselvam's dharma yudham, now has the less fancy Archaeology and Tamil culture portfolios. Two MLAs from the OPS camp are said to be in touch with Dhinakaran.
When the merger took place, Rajya Sabha MP R Vaithialingam announced that Sasikala will be expelled from the AIADMK soon. While that won't happen too soon due to the legalities involved in convening a General Council meeting and passing the resolution, EPS also knows doing so will be playing with fire.
Several MLAs, including at least three ministers, are said to have made it clear that Sasikala should not be subjected to humiliation. Would EPS risk his chair now that OPS has returned home is the question.
Those outside Tamil Nadu may wonder about the hold a convict like Sasikala has over the AIADMK lawmakers. The point is Sasikala pretty much called the shots when Jayalalithaa was around, barring those four months when she was banished from Poes Garden in 2011-12. In the last three decades, she has played a part in shaping the political career of many an MLA, MP and district secretary and while the methods may have been questionable, she commands their loyalty. None of them owe their political rise to an EPS or OPS. As far as Sasikala is concerned, it is now payback time.
But it is not as if EPS is not trying to shore up his numbers. Sources in the know say attempts are being made to lure the dissident MLAs while also looking at the Congress legislature party of eight MLAs as a possible poaching target.
Stalin has spoken in favour of bringing down the government in a democratic manner. But he will move the no-confidence motion only if he is sure of Dhinakaran delivering on the numbers. But then, there is uncertainty over whether AIADMK MLAs will be willing to support a DMK motion to bring down its own government. Besides, Dhinakaran will be blamed for losing the mandate that Jayalalithaa won last year.
Dhinakaran's Plan A then will be to cut short Palaniswami's tenure as CM. Joining hands with the DMK will be Plan B. Either way, Palaniswami will spend the next few days, busy counting heads and veshtis. Governance is hardly going to occupy mindspace.
Last Updated 31, Mar 2018, 6:43 PM IST