Probe panel on Jaya’s death yet to get off the ground

In the last few days, signals from within the AIADMK have been mixed

September 17, 2017 11:56 pm | Updated 11:56 pm IST - CHENNAI

CHENNAI, TAMIL NADU, 6/12/2016: The funeral procession of former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and AIADMK general secretary J. Jayalalithaa on its way to Marina beach from Rajaji Hall in Chennai on December 6, 2016.
Photo: K.V. Srinivasan

CHENNAI, TAMIL NADU, 6/12/2016: The funeral procession of former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and AIADMK general secretary J. Jayalalithaa on its way to Marina beach from Rajaji Hall in Chennai on December 6, 2016. Photo: K.V. Srinivasan

A month after Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami announced that a Commission of Inquiry headed by a retired High Court judge would be set up to conduct a probe into the death of former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa, his government is yet to constitute the probe panel. His announcement had paved the way for the merger of the AIADMK (PTA) headed by O. Panneerselvam with the AIADMK (Amma).

Since the merger, Mr. Panneerselvam, now Deputy Chief Minister, and his supporters, who had raised the demand for ordering a probe into Jayalalithaa’s death, have not made any public statement over the issue. On the other hand, Ministers who had previously asserted that Jayalalithaa’s treatment was transparent, have begun to call into question the circumstances leading to her death, following the ‘ouster’ of Sasikala from the post of interim general secretary of the AIADMK.

Forests Minister Dindigul C. Sreenivasan, who was appointed party treasurer by Sasikala following Mr. Panneerselvam’s rebellion, on Friday alleged that none was allowed to see Jayalalithaa when she remained hospitalised. However, only a few months ago, Mr. Sreenivasan had claimed that all and sundry including himself had met Jayalalithaa while she was in hospital and she had interacted with them. “She died despite the best treatment administered to her,” he had said in March.

When The Hindu contacted him seeking why he had changed his position now, Mr. Sreenivasan said he would not be able to talk over the phone about the issue.

‘Probe can wait’

Leaders who were in the erstwhile AIADMK (PTA) say there is hardly any discussion on ordering a probe into Jayalalithaa’s death now, as leaders are busy tackling the challenges posed by sidelined leader T.T.V. Dhinakaran. “As for the demand for the probe into Amma’s death, not all Ministers were for it, anyway. Though those who supported Mr. Panneerselvam before the merger insisted on a probe, it was accepted as an appeasement for the merger to happen,” a leader said.

The focus was presently on consolidating the support for the government under Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami. “First, we have to focus on the stability of the government. Then, there can be an internal pressure to go ahead with the probe,” a source said.

Professor Ramu Manivannan of the Department of Politics and Public Administration in the University of Madras felt suspicions about Jayalalithaa’s death were being revived by newer elements as the issue is a powerful weapon.

“They need a powerful tool now to kindle the emotions of the party cadre, especially when there is a lot of confusion in the party. This issue is the Brahmasutra for the Palaniswami government to target the (Sasikala) family,” he said and pointed to the increasing aggressiveness of the Chief Minister in public meetings.

However, official sources said “a file (on the probe) is under circulation”.

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