Chennai:The internal rift in Tamil Nadu’s ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) between chief minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami and his deputy O. Panneerselvam seems to have resurfaced.
On Wednesday, the Tamil Nadu government informed the Madras high court that a preliminary enquiry has been initiated by the directorate of vigilance and anti-corruption (DVAC) against Panneerselvam and his family members in an alleged disproportionate assets case.
Last week, the court had pulled up the DVAC and asked why a probe had not been initiated more than three months after a complaint was lodged against the deputy chief minister. The HC had also sought to know why a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe should not be ordered.
In March, the opposition Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) lodged a complaint for corruption and bribery with the DVAC, alleging Panneerselvam and his close associates have “amassed wealth beyond the known source of income and invested the same in companies and properties either in his name or in the names of his family members."
The development on Wednesday comes a day after Panneerselvam was snubbed in New Delhi by defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman, who refused to meet him. Panneerselvam had claimed that his visit was to thank the minister for providing a defence air ambulance during a medical emergency to airlift his brother from Madurai to Chennai.
However, as Panneerselvam waited at the defence minister’s office, a tweet from Sitharaman’s official Twitter handle on Tuesday claimed that appointment was given to Rajya Sabha MP V. Maitreyan. “Deputy CM of Tamil Nadu, Shri O. Panneerselvam has not met Smt Nirmala Sitharaman," the tweet said.
While AIADMK MP Sathyabhama was given time to met Sitharaman on Tuesday, S.P. Velumani and P. Thangamani, two ministers from Tamil Nadu who are close to Palaniswami, along with Lok Sabha MP M. Thambiduari met Union minister Piyush Goyal on Wednesday.
On his return to Chennai, a disappointed Panneerselvam said, “Annadurai (C.N. Annadurai, former CM of Tamil Nadu) has once said we need a heart that is capable of bearing anything."
Panneerselvam’s statement about the aircraft did not go down well with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) at the centre which recently won the support of AIADMK MPs during the no-confidence motion in the Lok Sabha.
Meanwhile, opposition leader M.K. Stalin demanded the resignation of the defence minister for “misusing power" by providing “a defence aircraft for personal use."
Similarly, Panneerselvam’s claim earlier this year that he had merged his faction with the Palaniswami-led camp only on the advice of Prime Minister Narendra Modi had irked the BJP and the Palaniswami camp had rejected the claims.
Observers see these developments as an indication that Panneerselvam is losing his political clout both within and outside the party.
“OPS (Panneerselvam) has been completely misused for all his patience. It has been an open secret that things have not been 100% alright ever since the merger, last year. But we have been trying to set things right. We will remain to do the same for the unity of AIADMK," said an AIADMK member close to Panneerselvam.
“There are some changes within the party indicating that there is definitely a confusion that is prevalent within the AIADMK, especially in its leadership. At the same time, BJP seems to be angry with the party, despite AIADMK voting in favour of BJP during the recent no-confidence motion," said Tamil writer and translator Aazhi Senthilnathan.
He added: “But the BJP cannot expect the AIADMK to dance to its tunes forever, which is adding to the confusion."