Sasikala playing dirty politics to get CM's post: OPS
As the open tussle for power in Tamil Nadu betwen caretaker Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam and ruling AIADMK General Secretary V. K. Sasikala escalated further, both leaders held separate meetings with State Governor C. Vidyasagar Rao here this evening and staked their respective claims to run the state government.
Mr. Panneerselvam, 65, had submitted his resignation last Sunday after Ms. Sasikala, 60, a long-time aide of late Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa, was chosen by AIADMK MLAs as the new leader of their legislative party and, therefore, his successor.
The Governor accepted his resignation on Monday and asked him to continue in office till alternative arrangments were made.
Mr. Panneerselvam had been sworn in as the Chief Minister in the early hours of December 6, shortly after the death of Ms. Jayalalithaa, who was both the head of the government and the party supremo.
The usually reticent and self-effacing Mr. Panneerselvam made a surprise visit to the memorial of Ms. Jayalalithaa on Tuesday and then told waiting newspersons that he had been forced to resign and that he was willing to continue as Chief Minister if the people and the party so wished.
Ms. Sasikala was widely expected to be sworn in on Tuesday, but the Governor has not yet taken a final view on the situation confronting the state.
Mr. Rao, who is the Governor of Maharashtra and is holding additional charge as Governor of Tamil Nadu, arrived here only late this afternoon.
Mr. Panneerselvam, accompanied by nine of his supporters, met him this evening and told him that he had been coerced into resigning as Chief Minister and supporting Ms. Sasikala's elevation to the top job. He is understood to have stated that he should be allowed to withdraw his resignation and allowed to prove his majority on the floor of the Assembly.
"The truth shall prevail. Good things will happen," Mr. Panneerselvam said after the meeting.
Ms. Sasikala, also accompanied by nine party colleagues, including some Ministers in the Panneerselvam Cabinet, met the Governor a little later and staked claim to forming to the new government, and produced a list of about 130 MLAs who, according to her, supported her.
Mr. Rao is understood to have heard both sides patiently and is now expected to weigh his options and consult legal experts.
Before meeting the Governor, Ms. Sasikala drove to Ms. Jayalalithaa's memorial at Marina Beach and offered her tributes to the late leader.
Earlier in the day, the war between the two sides continued unabated. Senior AIADMK leader E. Madhusudanan came out in support of Mr. Panneerselvam even as both sides traded allegations and took steps against each other.
The arrival of Mr. Madhusudanan, chairman of the AIADMK Presidium and virtually the number two in the party, at Mr. Panneerselvam's residence this afternoon gave a big boost to his camp.
"Madhusudanan has helped the party grow. He supported MGR throughout," Mr. Panneerselvam told the cheering crowds at his residence after the former announced his support for the Chief Minister. "He has come to us as first soldier," he said.
He said that he had agreed to become the Chief Minister after Ms. Jayalalithaa's death on the understanding that Mr. Madhusudhanan would be the party General Secretary, adding that the post should now be given to him.
"Madhusudanan will be the permanent general secretary of this party," he said. He also said that said. He claimed that Mr.Madhusudanan had decided to be at his side even though he had been receiving threats against doing so.
Mr. Panneerselvam said Ms. Sasikala was lying when she said she had never betrayed "Amma" (mother), as Ms. Jayalalithaa was called by her supporters and admirers. He went on to read out from a letter of apology given by Ms. Sasikala to Ms. Jayalalithaa after the then Chief Minister had asked her to leave her Poes Garden residence in 2012. He said she had said in that letter that she had no desire to be in politics and had promised to break all contact with members of her family.
Mr. Panneerselvam said earlier this morning that he would issue orders to convert Veda Nilayam, the Poes Garden residence of late Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa, into a memorial for her. The announcement assumes significance in view of the fact that Ms. Sasikala is functioning from that house.
There has been no word from Raj Bhavan on when Ms. Sasikala, a long-time aide of Ms. Jayalalithaa, would be sworn in as the new Chief Minister, an issue on which some uncertainty has crept in.
Ms. Sasikala had convened a meeting of AIADMK legislators here yesterday and party sources said 130 of the 134 MLAs were present. Mr. Panneerselvam also claims the support of several of the MLAs, though very few have publicly backed him so far. He has sought an opportunity to demonstrate his majority on the floor of the Assembly.
The Sasikala camp has taken its MLAs to undisclosed locations in a bid to prevent poaching by the rival camp.
Mr. Panneerselvam, meanwhile, held meetings with Tamil Nadu Chief Secretary Girija Vaidyanathan and Director General of Police T. K. Rajendra today.
Two days after Ms. Sasikala removed him from the post of AIADMK treasurer, Mr. Panneerselvam has also written to banks asking them to not allow any one to access the party funds without his written permission. He said his removal from the post of treasurer was illegal.
Meanwhile, AIADMK MPs in Delhi met Central leaders and expressed their concern about the alleged delay by the Governor in returning to Chennai and swearing in Ms. Sasikala as the new Chief Minister, saying it was meant to benefit her rivals.
After his visit to Ms. Jayalalithaa's memorial on Tuesday night, Mr. Panneerselvam had told reporters that her spirit had asked him to reveal certain truths to the people of Tamil Nadu. Among other things, he said that he had been humiliated and insulted by several of his colleagues ever since he took over as Chief Minister.
He claimed that Ms. Jayalalithaa had always looked upon him as her successor. He said he had the support of the party's cadre as well as of the people of the state.
The decision to remove Mr. Panneerselvam from the post of treasurer, which he had been holding for the past 10 years as a trusted loyalist of Ms. Jayalalithaa, was taken at a meeting of AIADMK leaders called by Ms. Sasikala, 60, at the Poes Garden residence of Ms. Jayalalithaa shortly after his outburst on Tuesday night.
Ms. Sasikala, on her part, denied there had been any pressure on Mr. Panneerselvam to quit and insisted that the party remained united under her leadership. She said Mr. Panneerselvam appeared to have been instigated by some people to revolt against the AIADMK leadership. She hinted at the possibility of removing Mr. Panneerselvam from the primary membership of the party in view of his act of rebellion.
She accused the Opposition DMK of being behind his outburst and referred to the "friendly" manner in which he was seen speaking with DMK leader M. K. Stalin during the recent session of the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly.
Mr. Panneerselvam has been always regarded as a trusted lieutenant of Ms. Jayalalithaa and had stood in for her as Chief Minister twice when she faced crises.
Among those who have openly come out to support Mr. Panneerselvam is AIADMK Rajya Sabha member V. Maitreyan and former Tamil Nadu Assembly speaker P. H. Pandian.
There has been opposition to Ms. Sasikala's elevant from a section of the public, in social media and from the Opposition in the state. They point to the fact that she has never contested any election and has no administrative experience. They also point to the fact that an appeal against her acquittal in a two-decade-old corruption case is pending before the Supreme Court and its verdict could be delivered as early as next week.
Ms. Sasikala and two others were co-accused with Ms. Jayalalithaa in the case, in which they were all acquitted by the Karnataka High Court in May 2015. The two others are her nephew Sudhakaran, who is Ms. Jayalalithaa's disowned foster son, and her close relative Ilavarasi.
The Karnataka High Court had allowed Ms. Jayalalithaa's appeal against the verdict of a special court in Bangalore which had, on September 23, 2014, sentenced her to four years in prison and asked her to pay a fine of Rs 100 crore. The special court had sentenced Ms. Sasikala, Sudharakan and Ilavarasi also to four years in prison and fined them Rs 10 crore each.
Ms. Jayalalithaa was admitted to the Apollo Hospital here on September 22 and died on December 5 after a sudden cardiac arrest. Doctors who treated her had told a press conference here on Monday that the AIADMK leader had been treated for septicemia and a host of other medical problems.
Mr. Panneerselvam was Finance Minister in Ms. Jayalalithaa's Cabinet and was also handling all the portfolios held by her after she was hospitalised on September 22.
He had stood in as Chief Minister for Ms. Jayalalithaa twice in the past. On September 29, 2014, he took over the position when Ms. Jayalalithaa resigned after being sentenced to four years in prison by a special court in Bangalore in a corruption case. Ms. Jayalalithaa returned to office on May 23, 2015, twelve days after the Karnataka High Court acquitted her in the 19-year-old corruption case.
He had earlier served as Chief Minister for a brief period from September 21, 2001 to March 1, 2002 after the Supreme Court had declared null and void the action of then Governor Fatima Beevi appointing Ms Jayalalithaa to the position as she had been sentenced to two years rigorous imprisonment in another corruption case. Ms Jayalalithaa was cleared of all charges in 2002 and returned as Chief Minister.
Ms. Sasikala's control over the party was in evidence in the manner in which she carried out Ms. Jayalalithaa's last rites and then took hold of the reins of the AIADMK a few days later. Since then, there has been a clamour from a group within the AIADMK that, after being chosen as the new General Secretary, she should also take charge of the Government. Ms. Jayalalithaa held both the posts and they argued that it was better if the same person held both positions.