TTV Dhinakaran to keep off party, but yet to quit post

Emerging from a "consultative" meeting chaired by Palaniswami, finance minister D. Jayakumar declared that this "unanimous" decision was taken in tune with the aspirations of the party cadres and people.

"If this is done, we'll accept that our demands have been met", he said.

The late-night development has come as a severe blow to Sasikala and her family which has been holding the reins of the ruling faction after ousting Panneerselvam from the Chief Minister's chair in February.

A couple of days prior to the by-poll and on receipt of complaints of large scale distribution of cash to voters, the Income Tax Department raided the official residences of state Health Minister C. Vijayabaskar, his relatives, business associates, party officials and also the residence of actor-turned-politician Sarathkumar. Reading out a prepared statement, Panneerselvam said the dramatic announcement by ministers on Tuesday night, distancing themselves from Sasikala and her family, had only strengthened their resolve. Jayakumar said, "There is no such thing".

However, Sattur MLA S G Subramanian, told reporters that Dhinakaran was their leader and the party deputy general secretary.

The Palanisamy government propped up by Dinakaran so far, has a tenuous majority with 122 MLAs in a Assembly of 234 members. Making a person who is not even a party's member as the deputy general secretary invited flak from OPS camp, Amma's staunch loyalists.

Earlier in the day, two other MLAs P Vetrivel and Andipatti legislator Thanga Tamil Selvan had voiced support for Dhinakaran. Before heading for jail, Sasikala made Dinakaran, her nephew, the party No 2.

Casting aside speculations that Panneerselvam has asked for the chief ministerial post as a precondition for the merger, Munusamy said "Neither had we asked for Chief Minister's post nor we asked for the general secretary's post". "If an election had to happen then OPS will win".

Seeing the writing on the wall, ministers wanted to distance themselves from Dinakaran.

Taken aback by this demand, the ministers went into a huddle. "Nobody respects Thambidurai", he said adding that TTV Dinakaran was evicted because he has many cases against him that is why Sasikala family removed him.

TTV Dinakaran is also facing FEMA and Election Commission bribery cases and he may be arrested in lieu with any one or both, soon.

However, the merger won't be easy. He reiterated that no minister had asked him to step down, and denied he was meeting Sasikala to apprise her of a "rift" in the party.

They later welcomed rebel leader Panneerselvam's offer for talks on merger and made a decision to work out the modalities for taking forward the proposal. She would have got away but for the Supreme Court verdict.

"Those who exited (Panneerselvam and his followers) are also part of our family".