Stung by the R K Nagar bypoll defeat at the hands of rebel leader T T V Dhinakaran, the ruling AIADMK today axed nine of his aides and warned of action against those who “betrayed” the party. The Dhinakaran camp questioned the ruling party’s locus standi to take action against them. District secretaries P Vetrivel, N G Parthiban, M Rengasamy and Thangatamilselvan, all considered close to Dhinakaran, were being “relieved” from their posts, said chief minister K Palaniswami, who is also AIADMK co-coordinator, and deputy chief minister and party coordinator O Panneerselvam. Vetrivel is the district secretary Chennai (North), while Parthiban is the secretary of Vellore (East). Rengasamy is secretary of Thanjavur (North) and Thangatamilselvan is AIADMK Theni district secretary. Palaniswami and Panneerselvam gave no reason for the action against the four but they were apparently given the sack for working in favour of Dhinakaran in the bypoll. The two leaders also announced removal of V P Kalairajan and V Muthiah, district secretaries of South Chennai (north) and Tirunelveli Urban, respectively, from the party’s primary membership and all posts. Va Pugazhenthi, secretary of AIADMK’s Karnataka unit and spokespersons Nanchil Sampath and CR Saraswathi faced similar action. In a joint statement, Palaniswami and Panneerselvam said the five were being “removed” since they went against party’s principles and brought “disrepute” to AIADMK. “Party workers are requested not to have any truck with them,” they said in the statement. Putting up a brave face in wake of the bypoll loss, Palaniswami said action will be taken against those who “betrayed” AIADMK. “Action will be certainly taken against all those who betrayed AIADMK,” he told reporters after a meeting to analyse the defeat. Panneerselvam, who was also present at the press meet, issued a similar warning. Palaniswami reaffirmed that the rival camp won due to a “tacit understanding” with the DMK. He asked how the DMK, which polled about 57,000-odd votes in the 2016 Assembly polls, could get only around 24,000 votes this time. Former chief minister J Jayalalithaa had won he seat last year, defeating Shimla Muthuchozhan of DMK by about 35,000 votes.
Palaniswami alleged that Dhinakaran won through unfair means. The two leaders had alleged yesterday that Dhinakaran had entered into a conspiracy with DMK leader M K Stalin to defeat the AIADMK. About Dhinakaran’s claim that the present government “will end in about three months”, Palaniswami shot back, asking “is he into astrology?” The chief minister, who took charge in February following a revolt by Panneerselvam against now deposed leader V K Sasikala, said initially many had expressed doubt about his government’s survival but has already completed more than 11 months in office. Panneerselvam called Dhinakaran ‘Maayaman’ (illusionary deer), referring to a character from the Ramayana. “You all know what happened to those (Sita) who went behind that maayaman,” Panneerselvam said. He said the ruling side had taken up with the Election Commission the “wrongdoings” of the Dhinakaran camp.
On the bypoll loss, he said all parties face ups and downs. Panneerselvam said the issue will be addressed and the party strengthened. Meanwhile, the Dhinakaran camp questioned the action against his supporters. “Who are they to take action. They have no right to do so,” Thangatamilselvan said. AIADMK sources had earlier said action was likely against six functionaries following the party’s defeat in the bypoll but the top leaders finally cracked down on nine of them. Dhinakaran trounced AIADMK’s E Madhusudhanan by over 40,000 votes in the byelection that was seen as a litmus test for the 17-month-old AIADMK government, and a measure of Dhinakaran’s popularity among people and his organisational skills.