scorecardresearch

Key Dhinakaran aide quits AMMK, joins DMK

(Eds: Adds Chief Minister's reax) Chennai, Dec 14 (PTI) In what could be perceived as a setback to AMMK founder T T V Dhinakaran, one of his key aides quit the party and joined the M K Stalin-led DMK Friday. However, Dhinakaran put up a brave face, wishing his former aide V Senthil Balaji, one of the 18 disqualified AIADMK MLAs, all the best in his new stint. Balaji joined the DMK in the presence of its president Stalin at the party headquarters Anna Arivalayam here and trained his guns at the ruling AIADMK. The Karur strongman called AIADMK a 'sinking ship', but stayed away from any strong criticism of Dhinakaran. Chief Minister K Palaniswami hit back at Balaji for attacking AIADMK, saying the latter had gone on to become a minister only due to his earlier stint in the party. In September 2017, Cumbum MLA S T K Jakkaiyan had quit the Dhinakaran faction and extended support to Palaniswami. Balaji's defection assumes significance as it comes amid reports that Dhinakaran is finding it hard to keep his flock together in the backdrop of the October 25 Madras High Court verdict, upholding Tamil Nadu Assembly Speaker P Dhanapal's order disqualifying 18 AIADMK MLAs. Dhanapal disqualified them last year for revolting against chief minister Palaniswami. Reports claim that not all the disqualified MLAs are happy with Dhinakaran's decision to not appeal against the Madras High Court order, upholding their disqualification. Balaji, transport minister in the 2011-16 AIADMK government headed by the late J Jayalalithaa, was elected from Aravakurichi in the Assembly polls held in 2016. But he was not inducted into the cabinet then. Balaji had represented Karur in 2006 and 2011. Balaji said he joined the DMK "inspired" by Stalin's performance and added that the DMK leader was steadfast in taking on the ruling AIADMK, as well as the BJP-led NDA government at the Centre. He also hailed Stalin's leadership qualities. "I joined the DMK, respecting the aspirations of the people of Karur district. The AIADMK government by Palaniswami and (deputy chief minister) O Panneerselvam is anti-people and only toes the BJP's line," he told reporters after formally joining the DMK. The AIADMK was a "sinking ship" with more functionaries wanting to quit it and join DMK, he said. The people would not only vote for DMK in the Lok Sabha polls in 2019, but give the mandate to the party and make Stalin the chief minister in the next Assembly elections due in 2021, Balaji said. Responding to this, Palaniswami told reporters in Salem that one should show 'gratitude.' "It was because he (Balaji) was in AIADMK that he was MLA and also became a minister. One should not forget to be grateful," he said. Asked about Dhinakaran, Balaji only indicated that he was not in favour of certain decisions taken by the former. He refrained from making any other comment on the AMMK founder. Responding to Balaji's defection, Dhinakaran said he was not really worried about it and wished his former aide well, adding that nobody can be held back. "Engirunthalum vaazhga," he said in Tamil, meaning "prosper wherever you are." He also called Balaji a "good younger brother," but denied that his quitting the AMMK would affect the party's future prospects. "A people's movement will not be affected by the defection of some persons," he said. "The fact that DMK makes it (Balaji's joining) such a big event says it all. Ever since their candidate lost his deposit in the RK Nagar elections, they have been wanting do something," he said. Dhinakaran trumped candidates of the ruling AIADMK and the DMK in the December 2017 RK Nagar bypoll, with the opposition DMK candidate forfeiting the deposit amount. The election was held to fill the vacancy created by the death of Jayalalithaa in 2016. Dhinakaran said he would not have bothered Balaji, if he had joined the AIADMK. "Wouldn't have been surprised if he had joined EPS (Palaniswami). How can he join DMK as the anti-DMK feeling is in our blood.The DMK had filed the case against Amma,"he said, alluding to the disproportionate assets case against Jayalalithaa. He recalled Balaji informing him some months back that he would "stay away" from party activities due to "personal issues." On Thursday, Dhinakaran had launched a veiled attack on Balaji, saying none would repent if some with selfish interests were to quit the AMMK. Dhinakaran, comparing dedicated party workers to "true gold," said no one would repent if gold plated "fake" were to move out of the party. "Our foundation is Amma's (Jayalalithaa) ideals, and people's welfare is our task," he had said. Without naming Balaji, he said it would be better if those who held views contrary to the goals of the party eased themselves out of the outfit. Considered to be among those close to Dhinakaran, Balaji, who was AMMK organising secretary, did not take part in a party procession here to observe the death anniversary of Jayalalithaa on December 5. PTI SA APR APR IND