The Delhi Police on Monday booked All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam leader TTV Dinakaran for allegedly trying to bribe an Election Commission official in a failed bid to obtain the coveted "two-leaves" party symbol for his faction.
Police lodged an FIR against Dinakaran soon after arresting an alleged middleman who, according to police, was purportedly helping the AIADMK leader reach out to an unidentified official in the Election Commission in return for an astounding Rs. 50 crore.
No arrest warrant has been issued against Dinakaran. But police have in their custody Sukesh Chandrasekhar, the alleged middleman who was picked from a 5-star hotel in New Delhi on Sunday, a senior police official said.
The developments add to the woes of the AIADMK (Amma) faction, whose leader VK Sasikala -- Dinakaran's aunt -- is in a Bengaluru jail in an disproportionate assets case. Tamil Nadu is rife with speculation that the Amma faction could merge with the rival Panneerselvam camp after dumping Sasikala and her nephew.
Sasikala was a close aide of Tamil Nadu's late Chief Minister Jayalalithaa, whose death in December forced a by-election in the R K Nagar assembly constituency.
Both, Sasikala's Amma faction and its rival, the Panneerselvam camp, staked claim to the party's two-leaves symbol because it represented Jayalalithaa's powerful legacy. But the Election Commission froze the symbol and asked the two factions to choose other symbols.
Police said Chandrasekhar had allegedly told Dinakaran that he has contacts in the Election Commission who could help the Sasikala faction get the two-leaves symbol.
"It has been learnt that Sukesh had struck a deal for Rs 50 crore for helping the AIADMK faction to keep the 'two leaves' symbol," a senior police officer said.
He said the middleman had got Rs 10 crore of the deal amount and "the remaining amount was to be given to him in a time-bound manner."
Police have recovered Rs 1.30 crore from Chandrasekhar, along with two cars -- a BMW and a Mercedes.
Dinakaran, who is the deputy general secretary of his faction, denied the allegation, calling it an attempt to "destroy our organization politically."
Dinakaran also denied trying to bribe anybody and said he does not know Chandrasekhar.
The two factions of AIADMK were eventually allotted the hat and electric pole symbols, ahead of the April 12 by-election, which anyway was put in abeyance by the EC after it reported irregularities including money power to influence voters during the campaign.
Delhi police said a team may visit Chennai to question Dinakaran.
"I didn't bribe anybody," said Dinakaran. "How does a broker or somebody say the money was from TTV Dinakaran? I don't know anybody by that name (Chandrasekhar)," he told reporters in Chennai before leaving for Bengaluru to meet Sasikala, who is lodged in a jail there.
Dinakaran said he had not received any summons or communication from the Delhi Police.
"I will answer if I get the summons. I will face it legally," he said.
"It is basically wrong to say that Sukesh has spoken to me. I don't know any such person. I don't know what the plan is and who is behind it," he added.
Dinakaran also denied reports that there was a revolt against him by some ministers in Tamil Nadu.
He reiterated that no minister had asked him to step down, and denied he was meeting Sasikala to apprise her of a "rift" in the party.
"She (Sasikala) is my aunt. The visit is to meet my aunt who is the general secretary of the AIADMK," he said.
"I have already told you, there is no rift. The other day, ministers had only come to wish me for the Tamil New Year. This (issue) has been going on that after the bypoll I would be removed. There is no such move. This is a planned campaign of lies," he said.
Chandrashekhar, the alleged middleman, is an accused in several cheating cases and is known as a "flamboyant conman having a fetish for luxury cars," according to police.
A senior police officer in New Delhi said the 27-year-old Chandrashekhar has cases of cheating and other crimes against him in Enforcement Directorate, Central Bureau of Investigation, Chennai Police and Bengaluru Police.
Police got on Chadrashekhar's trail after they received a tip-off from an informer about certain Election Commission officials being approached.
Police also claim to have recordings of phone conversations between Dinakaran and Chandrashekhar, police sources said, adding that some money was also paid in Kochi.