O. Panneerselvam
O. Panneerselvam

Senior AIADMK leader E. Madhusudanan backs OPS in war against Sasikala

NetIndian News Network

Chennai, February 9, 2017

Senior AIADMK leader E. Madhusudanan today backed caretaker Tamil Nadu Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam as the open power struggle between him and party General Secretary V. K. Sasikala continued to escalate, with both sides trading allegations and taking steps against each other.
The arrival of Mr. Madhusudanan, chairman of the AIADMK Presidium and the number two in the party, at Mr. Panneerselvam's residence this afternoon gave a big boost to his camp even as all eyes are now trained on Governor C. Vidyasagar Rao, who flew into the city from Mumbai today and is slated to meet delegations from the two sides.
Earlier in the day, Mr. Panneerselvam, 65, said 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, 60, a long-time aide of Ms. Jayalalithaa, is functioning from that house.
Ms. Sasikala was appointed as General Secretary of the party after the death of Ms. Jayalalithaa on December 5 and was last Sunday chosen by AIADMK MLAs as the new leader of the legislative party and, therefore, the successor to Mr. Panneerselvam.
Mr. Panneerselvam had submitted his resignation on Sunday and the Governor had accepted it on Monday and asked him to continue in office till alternate arrangements were made.
"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.
Both Mr. Panneerselvam and Ms. Sasikala are expected to meet the Governor, who arrived here from Mumbai this afternoon. Mr. Rao is the Governor of Maharashtra and is holding additional charge as the Governor of Tamil Nadu.
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.
Mr. Panneerselvam, in rather uncharacteristic fashion, came out openly against Ms. Sasikala on Tuesday night, saying that he was forced to submit his resignation and that he was prepared to continue as Chief Minister if the party and the people do desired.
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 are expected to meet President Pranab Mukherjee and express 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.
Mr. Panneerselvam had visited the memorial to Ms. Jayalalithaa at Marina Beach here late on Tuesday night to offer his tributes to her and later told waiting newspersons 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 in the early hours of December 6 after Ms. Jayalalithaa's death the previous night.
He said he had been forced into resigning and supporting Ms. Sasikala as the new leader of the AIADMK legislature party. 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.
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.