Panneerselvam, Sasikala in pitched battle

Our Bureau Chennai | Updated on January 12, 2018 Published on February 08, 2017

The Tamil Nadu Chief Minister O.Paneerselvam meet Party officials and supporters at his residence in Chennai on Wednesay. Photo :M PRABHU

O Panneerselvam

AIADMK General Secretary V K Sasikala speaks to media at Poes garden in Chennai in the wee hours on Wednesday. PTI

Number games Sasikala’s supporters at the AIADMK headquarters in Chennai on Wednesday; (right) Tamil Nadu Chief Minister O Panneerselvam meeting party officials and supporters at his residence   -  B JOTHI RAMALINGAM/M PRABHU

Both claim support of MLAs for CM’s post

Over 130 AIADMK MLAs responded to a call by the ruling party’s general secretary VK Sasikala, showing that the legislators are behind her bid for the post of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister.

A couple of legislators openly came out in support of Chief Minister O Panneerselvam, who has rebelled against the party leadership following Sasikala’s bid for power. Panneerselvam is confident he will be able to demonstrate his strength in the Assembly if needed.

Fast paced political developments since last weekend have left the party’s cadres and the people of Tamil Nadu in a tizzy. The death of former CM and party chief J Jayalalithaa last December 5 had left a vacuum in the top leadership position in the ruling party.

While Panneerselvam took over as CM within hours of Jayalalithaa’s death, there was speculation over who would head the party. On December 29, the party’s general council unanimously elected Sasikala as the general secretary.

Much resentment

In what was seen as an orchestrated move, senior party leaders including Panneerselvam’s cabinet colleagues demanded that she take over as CM.

This led to much resentment among the party cadres. Sasikala had never been at the political centre stage or faced elections.

She was known to wield power from behind the scenes and was a major influence on Jayalalithaa during her association lasting over three decades.

On February 5, the AIADMK MLAs met and elected Sasikala as the leader of the legislature party, paving the way for her to take over as CM.

Panneerselvam submitted his resignation to the Governor Vidyasagar Rao, who accepted it and asked him to continue till his successor takes over.

Late last night Panneerselvam pulled a surprise. He arrived at Jayalalithaa’s memorial on the Marina Beach and meditated for about 40 minutes. He then told the assembled media persons there he had been coerced into submitting his resignation as CM last Sunday after Sasikala had been elected the leader of the legislature party.

He said only somebody who had the capability and support of the 1.5 crore party members could lead it. If needed, he would withdraw his resignation.

Unprecedented revolt

Such a revolt is unprecedented in the party that was often described as an ‘iron fort’ run with ‘military discipline’ under Jayalalithaa.

Immediately after his disclosure last night, Sasikala called a meeting of party seniors and sacked Panneerselvam from the post of AIADMK treasurer. She accused the opposition party DMK of influencing him.

This morning she addressed a meeting of legislators and refuted the allegations by Panneerselvam. “Why did it take him 48 hours to come out with the accusation?” she asked. He is conspiring with the DMK, she added.

MLAs taken away

Following the meeting that lasted over an hour, the MLAs were taken away in three buses. They will stay together till Sasikala’s swearing-in ceremony or till she has to formally prove her strength in numbers.

Before the meeting, as the senior ministers and MLAs arrived at the party headquarters, they accused Panneerselvam of betraying the party’s trust.

Almost simultaneously as the developments at the AIADMK headquarters, Panneerselvam met media persons at his official residence. He asserted that he will meet the Governor and prove on the floor of the Assembly the support he has among the legislators.

Reiterating his loyalty to the party, he pointed out that Jayalalithaa had appointed him CM on two occasions earlier. “I haven’t betrayed the AIADMK while it was in power or in opposition. I will continue to serve the party and the people,” he said.

He denied that the BJP is backing him. “Even during Jayalalithaa’s period, we maintained a cordial relationship with the Centre and I was also following Amma’s (Jayalalithaa’s) footsteps in this,” he said.

Asked about his next course of action, he said he would go to the people to represent his case and gather support.

Verdict awaited

Former Rajya Sabha member from the AIADMK, V Maitreyan, along with senior AIADMK leader PH Pandian, a former Assembly Speaker, and his son Manoj Pandian, former Rajya Sabha member from the AIADMK, were with him during the media interaction.

The suspense continues in Tamil Nadu over who will head the government as people wait for the Governor to decide on the issue. Rao is expected to land here tomorrow. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court’s verdict on a corruption charge against Sasikala is also awaited.

Published on February 08, 2017
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