Over the last 24 hours, continuous political developments in Tamil Nadu have left Deputy Chief Minister O Pannerselvam in a quandary. The AIADMK leader, whose stature was impacted following his decision to merge with the Edappadi Palaniswami faction, is now caught in yet another controversy. And this time, it is TTV Dhinakaran, who has branded OPS as a 'double-faced' politician, alleging that OPS wanted to join the Sasikala faction even as he was carrying out a 'dharmayudham' against them.
This latest series of allegations in Tamil Nadu's continuing political drama began on October 4. Talking to the media in Madurai, suspended AIADMK MLA Thangatamil Selvan stated that O Panneerselvam had met with TTV Dhinkaran last year, ahead of his merger with the EPS faction. He allegedly apologised speaking of VK Sasikala and her family, and even requested that they join hands to remove EPS as the head of the Government. He went on to allege that another request was made by OPS in September this year to meet the AMMK chief.
Minister Thangamani denied this allegation almost immediately and said that TTV Dhinakaran was attempting to stir controversy ahead of the bye-polls in Thirupurakundram and Tiruvarur. He further claimed that it was TTV who tried to initiate merger talks with the AIADMK and was angry because this was not fruitful.
Responding to Thangamani's claim, TTV Dhinakaran launched a tirade on Friday, alleging that OPS was hungry for power.
"Last year, a few days after I came out of Tihar jail (June 3), our brother 'amaidhippadai' (silent army) Panneerselvam wanted to meet me and sent this message through a mutual close friend. I consulted with our MLAs about this interest expressed by OPS for a meeting. I didn't want to meet him, but after my men told me to go, I obliged and met him," revealed TTV Dhinakaran.
"In that meeting, OPS told me that he had committed a mistake and that whatever he spoke before was wrong. He said that he jumped the gun and also told me that he will consult with his men and join with us to oppose Edappadi. I also agreed to that. This happened on July 12, 2017," he added.
It is to be noted here that during this time frame given by TTV Dhinakaran, OPS was still conducting merger talks with the EPS faction. He had also publicly renounced the Sasikala clan, claiming that he had initiated his 'dharmayudham' to rid the party of them.
And therefore, the next question that arises is why TTV did not reveal this before and why he chose to do so now.
"I never wanted to tell this actually. Because he was my old friend, he was my senior in the party way back in 1999 when I became a Member of Parliament," was the AMMK chief's answer. According to TTV Dhinakaran, he chose to reveal this now as allegedly yet another request from OPS's side to join hands with him has come through a common friend in the last week of September.
"OPS wanted to meet me to talk about taking down Edappadi and putting me in an important post," said TTV who claims to have turned down the meeting. "But the next day, on September 30, he had taken a jibe at me in Mannargudi and asked 'how will a small pin dismantle a mountain?'," he added.
This incident, he said, was the final straw.
"I wanted to put an end to this double game played by OPS -- on one side he is saying that the family is bad, and on the other side he is sending the request for an appointment. I wanted to expose this and hence I revealed this to the world," he told the media outside his residence in Adyar.
Sources close to TTV Dhinakaran told TNM that the 'friend' is actually a businessman known to TTV and OPS. The meeting in July 2017 was held at the businessman's residence.
"OPS was there with his personal assistant Ramesh. Only TTV, OPS, Ramesh and that businessman were present at the meeting. The meeting lasted 15-20 minutes. He came and said whatever he said about Chinnamma was wrong. TTV said he didn't want to join hands but OPS never stopped trying," says the source.
But the source claims many attempts were made this year by O Panneerselvam's coterie to approach TTV Dhinakaran.
"In September 2018, OPS' son Ravindranath, came to meet TTV at a flat in RK Nagar, all for talks on joining hands. His brother came twice or thrice to meet TTV at his residence. A sitting minister came to my residence to hold talks," he adds.
The war of words between the factions is expected to escalate as TTV has openly alleged that OPS's only motivation was to become Chief Minister again.
"Somehow he wants to become Chief Minister. His only interest is that. EPS and OPS are hiding knives behind their backs and are ready to attack each other anytime," he further alleged.
When the media questioned OPS over the alleged attempts to meet TTV, he first stated that he was not aware of the exact allegations. But when pressed further he stated that, "It was in the past."
OPS cannot deny meeting
The source in the TTV camp says - "If he denies it to the media, we will expose where they met, who the businessman is and proof of the meeting."
This AIADMK, however, has stuck to its stand that TTV Dhinakaran has made up an elaborate story before the bye-elections.
"None of these claims are true. They never met," says AIADMK leader KP Munusamy to TNM. "Dhinakaran is creating problems because AMMK is headed for defeat in the bye polls. OPS did dharmayudham against the Sasikala clan, why will he want to join them? Even now, in order to save the AIADMK he joined EPS again," he adds.
But are they happy with EPS holding the CM position?
"OPS was a Chief Minister chosen by Amma. EPS is Chief Minister due to circumstances. But we do not have a problem with it," says Munusamy. "But I cannot deny that OPS doesn't have the wish to become CM," he admits.