Isolated in his party, All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam deputy general secretary TTV Dinakaran on Wednesday threw in the towel and "stepped aside" to pave the way for a merger of rival factions led by Tamil Nadu Chief Minister E K Palaniswami and his predecessor O Panneerselvam.
Dinakaran, the nephew of jailed AIADMK general secretary V K Sasikala, is facing a revolt by an influential section of the party led by Palaniswami and a host of ministers, who had on Tuesday night declared the ouster of the once powerful aunt-nephew duo, and extended a hand of friendship to the Panneerselvam camp.
Dinakaran, who had earlier in the day convened a meeting of the MLAs backing him, chickened out at the last moment, and called it off, apparently outnumbered by those arrayed against him.
Senior ministers including D Jayakumar and K A Sengottaiyan, who chairs the AIADMK presidium and had hitherto sided with Dinakaran, had questioned the beleaguered leader's locus standi to convene a meeting of legislators and the party's district secretaries.
Seeking to avoid any confrontation, Dinakaran said he had "stepped aside" last night itself "in the interest of the party".
"I myself would have announced it (of keeping away from the party) if they had told me about their decision," he said, referring to the revolt.
Dinakaran, who is facing trouble on multiple fronts, including from the Delhi police which has booked him for allegedly trying to bribe an Election Commission official to clinch the 'two-leaves' symbol of the party, frozen by the poll panel, for his faction, also said he had no issues with the rival camps merging together.
He, however, claimed the rebellion against him was out of "fear".
"They (ministers) might have done this (revolt) due to some fear. Maybe there was some dissatisfaction against me. But I don't know," he told reporters.
He was apparently referring to the possible angst in the party following income tax raids at Health Minister C Vijayabaskar's premises ahead of the assembly bypoll to the R K Nagar seat which was countermanded following allegations of bribing and inducement of voters. Dinakaran was the party's nominee for the election.
"I wonder what the apprehension is about. When they make such sudden announcement there must be some fear," he said, adding, the revolt was a decision made in a "hurry".
Dinakaran, however, made it clear that since it was Sasikala who had appointed him to the post, he would decide on the next course of action only after meeting her. He wondered why there was the question of his resignation when he had already "stepped aside".
Meanwhile, Panneerselvam, a staunch loyalist of the late Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa, described the revolt against the Sasikala family as the "first success" of his "dharma yuddh" (holy war).
Panneerselvam said he had launched the "dharma yuddh" with the help of his supporters, including MPs and MLAs, in an effort to ensure that the AIADMK did not go into hands of Sasikala's family.
Panneerselvam had filled-in for Jayalalithaa as Chief Minister thrice in the past, twice when she had to go to jail in corruption cases and once when she was on her death bed. He had claimed he was coerced to step down by Sasikala after Jayalalithaa's death.
Though the Palaniswami and Panneerselvam camps have shown inclination for the merger of the two factions, there have not been any direct talks between them so far.
Dinakaran, against whom the Delhi police has issued a lookout notice for allegedly trying to bribe an Election Commission official, said he had no intention to fight with people who are like his "brothers." "I will never go against the AIADMK," he said.
He, however, insisted the appointment of Sasikala and himself to the top party posts was made with the "consent" of others and that none was "bypassed".
He indicated Sasikala has not yet been apprised of the developments. "How can someone inside the jail be informed," he asked.
When asked if he was being "targeted" by way of Income Tax raids on Health Minister C Vijayabaskar and countermanding of the April 12 RK Nagar bypoll, he responded with a terse "maybe."
Putting up a brave face, he said he will tackle the situation. "They can maximum put me behind bars. If that is my destiny, I will face it and come out," he added.
A powerful section of the ruling AIADMK-Amma had on Tuesday night risen in revolt against Sasikala-Dhinakaran leadership, and said they had resolved to "delink" the party and the government from them.
The surprise development had come on a day when Panneerselvam made the merger talks between the two camps contingent upon the ruling AIADMK faction ejecting Sasikala and Dinakaran, who is standing-in for his jailed aunt.
Photograph: R Senthil Kumar/PTI Photo