Chennai: All is not well within the AIADMK, one of the two major Dravidian players in Tamil Nadu politics and currently in the opposition. Its senior leader and former Chief Minister Edapaddi K. Palaniswami (EPS) is under increasing stress and strain over the reopening and expansion of investigations into Kodanad Estate murder-cum-heist case. On Thursday, EPS raised the issue in the state Assembly, alleging that there appeared a move to implicate him and that it was entirely politically motivated. In the heated debate that ensued, Chief Minister M.K. Stalin made it clear that the investigations
Used as the camp office of the Chief Minister when AIADMK supremo J. Jayalalithaa was in power, her palatial bungalow was broken into and a guard was killed when armed intruders allegedly entered the house in the dead of the night and were said to have escaped with some documents. Interestingly, another guard, a Nepali, was found missing mysteriously. A team of Tamil Nadu police has gone to Nepal in his search as he could be a key witness.
The break-in that took place in 2017, shortly after the death of the former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa was the talk of the state when speculations revolved around what went missing from her personal estate in the Nilgiris, worth hundreds of crores.
Former Chief Minister EPS maintained that investigations into the case were complete and it was coming up for trial in the courts when suddenly there is a move to open and widen investigations into the case. This is giving sleepless nights to EPS, who is also finding support for himself dwindling inside the party as well. What is interesting to note is that several party men who stuck with him during his battle against a senior colleague and former Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam are slowly moving away.
Both EPS and OPS are joint coordinators of the AIADMK, and as such OPS has never forgiven him for pipping him to the race for the chief ministerial chair. He has only been waiting for an opportunity, which seems to have presented itself in the form of investigations into the Kodanad estate case. The Nilgiris police, acting on directions of the Madras High Court, formed a special team and expanded the investigations into the case. The police have got four weeks to probe and file a report. The seriousness with which the government now is pursuing the case can be gleaned from the fact that four more special task forces have been pressed into service for investigations.
All efforts by EPS and his well-wishers to scuttle the probe failed, including moving the courts that refused to interfere in the probe. In fact, three accused persons in the case have petitioned the court for directions to the police to investigate EPS, Sasikala and others. The police have to respond to this plea later this month. Can EPS count on his own party, especially when OPS has begun to distance himself from the issue and also play ball with Sasikala, the close aide of Jayalalithaa, who has been wanting to stage a political comeback. So far, her move has been blocked by EPS, who ever since his elevation as Chief Minister won over MLAs to his side. EPS became so strong within the party and the government that OPS found himself with no choice other than to anoint EPS as the Chief Ministerial face during the 2021 general elections to the state Assembly.
It was clear Sasikala wanted to enter and capture the AIADMK soon after her release from the prison, just before the elections. Her return to Chennai was showcased as a show of strength and she had announced plans to contest the elections, even separately. However, she changed her tune at the proverbial eleventh hour and announced withdrawal from making any grand entry into politics. After the AIADMK and EPS were routed in the general elections, Sasikala once again started making her political moves. And this time, there is an outside possibility that OPS could give his tacit support to any move that cut EPS to size within the party, and politics.
Also, OPS has made subtle moves, praising DMK seniors and also DMK patriarch M Karunanidhi. He also sought to distance himself from previous government decisions denying a place to build a memorial for Karunanidhi or allowing his cremation at the Marina beach. In a clever statement, OPS hinted that he was unable to support Stalin on the resolution against the three farm laws and also equally he could not be faithful to AIADMK on this issue. OPS, who just lost his wife, has been more or less silent on the Kodanad estate case.
The political weathercocks within the AIADMK seem to have discovered winds of change and are said to be distancing themselves, especially after the case has been reopened for investigations. Incidentally, social media is abuzz with old statements of OPS when he had raised a banner of revolt against Sasikala/EPS. OPS had come out with a barrage of questions on the Kodanad estate burglary cum murder case and spoke about many documents being taken away. What was stolen, who sent the burglars, what was their true motive, and the like. OPS had also questioned if the police investigations, as were taking place then, were free and fair or they were hamstrung due to pressure from any quarters.
It is exactly similar questions that the DMK dispensation is now asking and seeking answers to. Now, even the courts are taking notice of the discrepancies in the police charge sheet and which is why the court has given time to the police four weeks to re-investigate and inform the court what their findings were. For the DMK, which had when in opposition demanded a thorough probe into the death of Jayalalithaa, now is only too happy to get to the bottom of any case relating to the former Chief Minister and his party. It may be recalled that the Stalin government had also extended the tenure of the one-man probe panel going into the death of Jayalalithaa.