T T V Dhinakaran
became an MP for the first time in 1999 and served his five-year term till 2004. He was elected from the Periyakulam constituency as a representative of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, or AIADMK.
His lineage is important: Dhinakaran
is the son of Vanithamani, the sister of Sasikala, friend and heir to Jayalalithaa’s fortune. When Sasikala
befriended Jayalalithaa, all three of Vanithamani’s sons began to be seen around Jayalalithaa. They were known as the T T V brothers: Dhinakaran, Bhaskaran
and Sudhakaran. Sudhakaran
was the brother Jayalalithaa adopted as her foster son, whose marriage caused national chatter. Sudhakaran
was soon disowned by Jayalalithaa, but Dhinakaran
continued to remain close to her.
The Periyakulam Lok Sabha constituency is something of an AIADMK
bastion: it got 69.65 per cent votes in 1977, the first time it contested; 63 per cent in 1984; 61 per cent in 1989; 62 in 1991 and 53 in 1998. It was no surprise that Dhinakaran, handpicked and nominated by none other than Jayalalithaa herself should win the election in 1999. The victory margin came down — AIADMK’s vote share was just 46 per cent — but that was because the Tamil Maanila Congress made its debut in 1999 and took away 80,000 votes.
What was surprising was that in 2004, despite Periyakulam being one of the two constituencies where a sitting MP was allowed to contest (Jayalalithaa reshuffled all the other MPs), Dhinakaran
lost the election. The margin was just about 20,000 votes. What is even more surprising is that despite losing, he was considered important enough to be nominated to the Rajya Sabha as an MP from AIADMK.
He lost the elections on May 2004. He became a Rajya Sabha MP in June 2004. That alone says something about his clout with Jayalalithaa.
Everything seemed fine as long as he was in Delhi. Though his average attendance in the Rajya Sabha was only 7 per cent and he participated in zero debates, he asked a number of questions (showing surprising regularity, one or two questions requiring written answers every week on subjects as diverse as climate change and the telecom policy). But controversy was snapping at his heels in Tamil Nadu.
In 2000, within months of becoming an MP, the Vigilance Department in Tamil Nadu was asking him questions about two properties he had allegedly bought in London. The state government, now headed by AIADMK’s rival, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), and led by M Karunanidhi, was out to get Jayalalithaa and everyone associated with her. Dhinakaran
was charged with laundering Jayalalithaa’s illegal income via a London-based solicitor to buy two properties: Slaley Hall and a hotel, Hopscroft Holt. The income to fund the purchase allegedly came from Jaya Publications, a company floated by Jayalalithaa in 1991 when she became chief minister. Her stock reply when asked about foreign assets abroad was: “I have no property abroad”.
It was during this period that Dhinakaran
began spreading his wings in the party. The Periyakulam Lok Sabha seat falls in the Theni district, the home turf of O Panneerselvam. During his elections campaigns, Dhinakaran
stayed with Panneerselvam, who was municipal chairman. Never imagining for one moment that Panneerselvam would be a future threat, he recommended him to Jayalalithaa. Panneerselvam rose from strength to strength, becoming chief minister in 2001. Interestingly, in 2007, Jayalalithaa replaced Dhinakaran, who was AIADMK
treasurer, with Panneerselvam.
was slow to read the tea leaves. The party came to a juddering stop when Jayalalithaa issued a terse statement in December 2011 announcing that Dhinakaran
and his cousin, Venkatesh, along with Sasikala
and 11 other family members, were no longer to be allowed into Poes Garden, the chief minister’s residence, for conspiring against her.
The demons, meanwhile, had already begun chasing Dhinakaran: his passport was impounded, so all the foreign visits undertaken as an MP — to the Bahamas, Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea, Spain and the UK — came to an end. In March 2012, Jayalalithaa readmitted Sasikala
after her public apology in which she pledged to sever ties with her family members who conspired against Jayalalithaa. But Poes Garden
was still out of bounds for Dhinakaran.
And then, Jayalalithaa died.
In a matter of days, everything changed. Sasikala
laid the grounds for Dhinakaran’s re-entry. Gawking AIADMK
cadres were told how Dhinakaran
served Jayalalithaa: “A few relatives of Janaki, MGR’s wife, pushed Jayalalithaa down from the vehicle carrying MGR’s body. Imagine when a well-built and tall person like Jeppiaar (a confidante of MGR) hit her on the back. I held her from falling down while Dhinakaran, who was a young boy, bit Jeppiaar’s hand,” she recalled at a party meeting in February 2017. When Sasikala
was imprisoned, Dhinakaran
was made deputy general secretary of AIADMK, Sasikala’s eyes and ears during the time she was in jail.
made no secret of his game plan. At a public meeting in March in Tiruvannamalai, he told the audience: “I know personally how Panneerselvam came from Periyakulam (as a first time MLA) to Chennai in (2001) and soon there will be an enquiry to find out how and why your (Panneerselvam’s) sons and sons-in-law travel to Chennai, New Delhi and abroad frequently. What is the need for them to travel to foreign countries often? What is it that takes them to foreign countries so often?” he said to a cheering crowd. He thought he had everything going for him: he was the candidate for the RKNagar Assembly seat that Jayalalithaa had held, and once in the Assembly, he believed he could both rule and reign.
Except that others threw a feint: Edappady Palaniswami
joined forces to oust Dhinakaran
and the Election Commission cancelled the RK Nagar by-election. Soon after, he was sacked from all positions in the party.
For the moment, he has retreated to live to fight another day. He has accepted that the party is not backing him and MLAs, sensing the wind, are changing sides. If the Edappady-Palaniswami
factions continue to be resolute, the equilateral triangle of power in AIADMK
will change contours, confounding even the most ardent devotees of Euclid.