It will be Tamil Nadu’s next big political battle, and this one for former Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa’s legacy.
Deputy General Secretary of the AIADMK and Sasikala’s nephew TTV Dhinakaran announced in Chennai on Wednesday that he would be the party’s (Sasikala faction) candidate for the RK Nagar by elections.
RK Nagar constituency in Chennai had elected Jayalalithaa in 2015 and 2016. Dhinakaran’s announcement comes days after Jayalalithaa’s niece, Deepa Jayakumar announced that she will contest from her late aunt’s RK Nagar constituency.
“I will win for more than 50,000 votes. We consider only DMK as our opposition, not anyone else,” Dhinakaran said.
“I want to continue the good work of Amma and it's because the party people feel I can do it that they have convinced me to contest. I will take steps to ensure that Jayalalithaa's schemes are implemented in RK Nagar, “he said.
When asked whether he would stake claim to the CM’s post if he wins RK Nagar, Dhinakaran said, “If I win in RK Nagar, there is no chance that I will become CM. According to us, the cm of TN is EPS.”
Dhinakaran announced that they were looking for support from all other parties and fronts. “Not only Makkal Nala Kootani or PWF, I wish Vaiko, Vijayakanth, BJP, Congress and everyone supports us. Our only enemy is the DMK.”
The faction led by O Panneerselvam has approached the Election Commission and the court challenging the appointments made by Sasikala and the ownership of the much coveted two leaf party symbol.
"I will contest under the two leaf symbol," Dhinakaran told reporters.
Deepa VS Dhinakaran
A political novice, Deepa’s popularity has soared in TN following Jayalalithaa’s death and Sasikala’s elevation to AIADMK chief. Deepa’s decision to contest from RK Nagar poses a strong challenge for the embattled AIADMK.
Whether the by-poll will in fact see a multi-contest remains to be seen with the O Panneerselvam camp yet to announce its plans, while the DMK will also throw its hat in the ring.
Dhinakaran was Sasikala’s choice, and her decision to make him the party’s Deputy General Secretary hours before she was taken to Bengaluru jail had suprised many. The man who was banished from the party in 2011 by Jayalalithaa had been elected to the Lok Sabha in 1999, and was a member of Rajya Sabha between 2004 and 2010.
He is also the brother of Sudhakaran, Jayalalithaa's foster son.
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.
Jayalalithaa contested from RK Nagar in North Chennai in the 2015 by-poll following her acquittal by the Karnataka High Court in the DA case. She was re-elected from the same constituency in the 2016 Assembly Elections.
(This story was first published in The News Minute.)