What made AIADMK-AMMK strongman Senthil Balaji ditch TTV?

File photos of Senthil Balaji and T T V Dhinakaran

Chennai: A string of humiliations in the AMMK and a scintillating offer from the DMK made former Minister V Senthil Balaji switch over from the T T V Dhinakaran camp to the M K Stalin-led party, say sources in the know.

“Though Senthil Balaji was one of the strongmen who supported Dhinakaran when he floated the Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam, he lately started feeling that he was being sidelined in the fledgling party. His suggestions to Dhinakaran in connection with the MLAs disqualification case (Senthil apparently wanted to file an appeal in the Supreme Court against the Madras High Court’s verdict upholding the Speaker’s decision to remove 18 legislators supporting TTV) and strategies to be followed in the by-election to 20 Assembly constituencies were ignored,” say sources.

“It was at this time that he started establishing contacts with the DMK, which was looking for a street-smart player like Senthil for its Karur district unit. After getting the green light from the DMK high command, he made his mind up to join the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam,” they add.

Some sources even claim that Senthil met DMK president Stalin recently and had a closed-door meeting.

“If things go as planned, Senthil, who was given a plum offer by the DMK leadership, would formally join the party 16 December, on the sidelines of former chief minister M Karunanidhi’s statue opening ceremony. Later, he will hold a grand function in Karur, where his supporters in large numbers would join the DMK in the presence of Stalin,” sources inform.

Sensing that Senthil’s decision would create a dent in his party, Dhinakaran, it is learnt, sent emissaries to pacify the former Transport Minister. “But Senthil refused to meet them since he was firm about joining the DMK,” sources say.

Interestingly, Senthil started his political career in the DMK, before his stints in the MDMK and the AIADMK. He was made Transport Minister by Jayalalithaa, the then chief minister and AIADMK supremo, in 2011. After her demise in 2016, he sided  with Sasikala and Dhinakaran, since he was apparently not on good terms with Lok Sabha Deputy Speaker M Thambidurai and Transport Minister M R Vijaya Bhaskar, who too hail from the Karur belt.

While AMMK leader Thanga Tamilselvan expressed hope that Senthil would not join the DMK, a senior DMK leader confirmed Senthil’s arrival in his party and said they would accord him a warm welcome.

M Bhaskar Sai