Hours ahead of her imminent departure to prison, Sasikala put her house in order and named a ‘Deputy General Secretary’ for the AIADMK. The man she chose was TTV Dhinakaran, a former MP, and more importantly, her nephew.
Dhinakaran’s elevation to proxy chief of the party in Sasikala’s absence came minutes after he was re-inducted into the party. He was among the members of Sasikala’s family who were expelled by late Chief Minister Jayalalithaa in 2011. While Sasikala came back into Amma’s fold in 2012, Jayalalithaa did not extend the invitation to the rest of the family.
Along with Dhinakaran, another member of Sasikala’s family - her nephew Dr S Venkatesh - has also been re-inducted into the party after his 2011 expulsion.
Dhinakaran has been the one man who has been prominently photographed along with Sasikala in the last week. When Sasikala met Governor Vidyasagar Rao on February 9, Dhinakaran was with her, wearing his pale Safari suit and glasses.
Dhinakaran sitting next to Sasikala during her meeting with Governor Vidyasagar Rao on February 9
After Sasikala’s conviction, when Edappadi Palaniswami went to stake his claim with the Governor, Dhinakaran accompanied him too.
Dhinakaran was elected to the Lok Sabha from the Periyakulam constituency in 1999, and was a member of Rajya Sabha between 2004 and 2010. He is also the brother of Sudhakaran, Jayalalithaa’s foster son.
The TTV brothers –Dhinakaran, Sudhakaran and Bhaskaran – are based out of Theni and take care of operations in south Tamil Nadu. The TTV brothers were born to Sasikala’s sister Vanithamani. Sudhakaran is the son who was adopted, and later disowned, by Jayalalithaa. His lavish wedding in 1995 created a major furore.
Dhinakaran has also been credited with grooming O Panneerselvam in 2001, as Arun Janardhanan writes in TNIE. Reportedly, Dhinakaran stayed with OPS and helped his rise from office bearer to Chief Minister when Jayalalithaa was barred from holding office.
Dhinakaran has been found guilty of money laundering and benami transactions in a 1996 case. In January, the Madras High Court confirmed a penalty of Rs 25 crore imposed on him by the Directorate of Enforcement. The ED had booked him under FERA after huge sums of money were deposited into his bank account between the years 1991-1996, coinciding with Jayalalithaa’s first term as CM.
Like his aunt, Dhinakaran too has other FERA cases pending before court. The ED had in 2015 moved Madras High Court not only to challenge Sasikala’s discharge in FERA cases, but also that of Dhinakaran in two cases.
Dhinakaran is perhaps the only family-aide of Sasikala with some formal political experience. Ever since the power tussle began in Tamil Nadu last week, Dhinakaran has been by his aunt’s side constantly. He has been guiding Sasikala through this political crisis, and is believed to be the force behind her in her every move. He was always in the car right behind her whenever her convoy went anywhere - her shadow, almost.
For the people of Tamil Nadu, who are willing to forgive Jayalalithaa for her corruption by pinning the blame on Sasikala, the fact that she’s bringing her family in is not going to go down too well. There is a lot of fear that Sasikala’s family - the Mannargudi clan - will further spread their tentacles in Tamil Nadu.
For many of the MLAs of AIADMK meanwhile, the fact that Dhinakaran has now been elevated and the family is gaining ground in the party might be reason enough to switch to the OPS camp.
But for her close circle and many of the cadre, Dhinakaran's appointment does not seem like a bad move because a person who is in the know would be taking care of the AIADMK's finances, and that in turn would help keep their flock together.
By entrusting the party to Dhinakaran in her absence, by creating the post of ‘Deputy General Secretary’, Sasikala has ensured that she will still remain in control of AIADMK, and that she will still remain the General Secretary of the party, and the puppet master from prison.
While she has constantly talked of how every party cadre is important, and how every decision in the AIADMK is taken for the sake of the cadre, Sasikala has proved that, for her, blood really is thicker than water.