24 July was Dr V Maitreyan’s last day in the Rajya Sabha. He broke down, recalling his association with the late Jayalalithaa, putting on record his immense gratitude to her for having sent him to the Upper House for three terms.
Vasudevan Maitreyan, once an important player in the AIADMK, today is neither considered a part of the O Panneerselvam camp nor a member of the Edappadi Palaniswami team.
In February 2017, he was the first prominent leader of the AIADMK to head to Panneerselvam’s residence at Greenways Road in Chennai, within an hour of the then chief minister’s dramatic revolt at the Marina. Over the next few days and weeks, the diminutive oncologist-turned-politician was by Panneerselvam’s side, confident that he was the one to take forward Amma’s legacy.
At that stage in Panneerselvam’s political career, Maitreyan was just what the doctor ordered. For one, as a well-known face outside of Tamil Nadu and in the corridors of power in Delhi, he brought a certain credibility. Two, as one of the few partymen articulate in English, he could present Panneerselvam better before television viewers. Three, his networking skills helped in back channel talks.
But what was critical for OPS was his equation with the BJP. Maitreyan was associated with the RSS and was part of the BJP from 1990 to 1999, serving first as general secretary, then vice-president and finally president of the Tamil Nadu unit, before quitting to join the AIADMK.
It is perhaps because of his membership of the BJP alumni association, that Maitreyan was among the two AIADMK leaders – the other being Thambidurai – handpicked by Jayalalithaa to keep channels open with Narendra Modi. The duo traveled to Gujarat in 2011 as Jayalalithaa’s representatives to call on Modi when he sat on a fast for communal harmony though she called it a mere goodwill gesture. Maitreyan also made all arrangements for Jayalalithaa’s visit to Gujarat to attend Modi’s swearing-in ceremony in December 2012.
However, Maitreyan found himself out in the cold after the Lok Sabha elections in 2014 when he was removed by Jayalalithaa as leader of the AIADMK party in the Rajya Sabha. Sources blamed it on his intra-Parliamentary party rivalry with Thambidurai.
Maitreyan speaks flawless Hindi, the result of having spent time in Nagpur, the city where he did his MBBS from the Government Medical College in the 1970s. “Without spending a penny”, he told me. But the Nagpur connection has only always reinforced the suspicion about his saffron leaning and as he often jokes, the “khaki knicker identity”.
After the patch-up between EPS and OPS, most of Panneerselvam’s supporters during his revolt found themselves sidelined. Maitreyan was one of them. He wasn’t happy with the merger and conveyed his displeasure in a social media post. “But have the hearts synced” he asked.
During the 2017 revolt, I remember asking Maitreyan about his equation with Panneerselvam. “He is a friend, a colleague,” he replied.
“Is he your 2 am friend,” I asked.
“No, he is not. The 2 am friend is someone else,” he replied.
He told me the name but requested not to put it in print it lest it embarrassed the politically very powerful person.
Categories: Tamil Nadu