In TN, all eyes on Raj Bhavan now

OPS promises inquiry into Jaya's medical treatment; Most MLAs are with us, claims Sasikala camp.

Updated - February 09, 2017 03:24 am IST

Published - February 09, 2017 01:35 am IST - Chennai:

Garnering support:  Tamil Nadu CM O. Panneerselvam with former Speaker P. H. Pandian and Rajya Sabha Member V. Maitreyan at his residence in Chennai on Tuesday.

Garnering support: Tamil Nadu CM O. Panneerselvam with former Speaker P. H. Pandian and Rajya Sabha Member V. Maitreyan at his residence in Chennai on Tuesday.

With the battle lines clearly drawn between the rival camps of the ruling AIADMK following the revolt by Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam, the Sasikala camp, which claimed the support of the majority of MLAs, late on Wednesday herded its legislators, numbering over 125, to a luxury resort near Marakkanam, 120 km from Chennai.

Over a dozen party MPs owing loyalty to Ms. Sasikala flew to New Delhi ostensibly to meet the President or Prime Minister should the need arise.

Not giving up despite the odds being stacked against him in terms of support from elected representatives, Mr. Panneerselvam, declared that he would prove his majority on the floor of the Assembly. Though popular sentiment appeared to be in his favour, as on Wednesday he found the backing of only five legislators, a Rajya Sabha MP and some former ministers and functionaries.

Separately, Mr. Panneerselvam announced that he would institute a judicial inquiry headed by a sitting judge of the Madras High Court to probe the treatment administered to former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa.

After a meeting of the AIADMK legislators at the party office, the Sasikala camp initially herded its MLAs on three air-conditioned luxury buses to the house of Public Works Department Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami on Greenways Road. In the evening, the legislators were taken to the Chennai airport to be flown to New Delhi. However, shortly before they could board their flights, they were asked to return after it became known that Governor Ch. Vidyasagar Rao would be returning to Chennai from Mumbai on Thursday evening.

Ms. Sasikala insisted that she was cent per cent confident of being sworn in the next Chief Minister.

While the Sasikala camp claimed that 130 of the 135 AIADMK legislators had attended the meeting chaired by her, Mr. Panneerselvam who initially had the support of just two MLAs, later received the backing of three other legislators.

Appeal to MLAs

He claimed that more legislators were in touch with him.“The MLAs are in touch with me,” he said, adding, “I appeal to all the MLAs. They must understand and reflect what people think and feel in their respective constituencies. Everything has a limit. If things cross a limit, MLAs have to reflect the people’s sentiments. If not, it will be a betrayal of people’s trust.” He invited Jayalalithaa’s niece Deepa Jayakumar to join him.

Challenges appointment

He also challenged Ms. Sasikala’s appointment as the party’s general secretary. “According to the party’s constitution, only the party cadres can vote and elect a ‘general secretary’. If there is an extraordinary situation and the party is forced to elect a general secretary, then the executive and general body can select a temporary one until a permanent general secretary is elected. This is the law,” he said.

Denying the allegations that he was acting against the high command at the behest of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party government at the Centre, he said the AIADMK would speak against the Centre if the State’s rights were denied.

No force can stop us, Sasikala tells colleagues

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam said here on Wednesday, “We will support the Centre if it supports us.” The support was not to an individual but for the State government, he added.

Talking about how former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa acknowledged his rise from the grassroots, he said, “She also appointed me as a CM twice. I have never betrayed Jayalalithaa or the party.”

Addressing the meeting of the MLAs, AIADMK general secretary V.K. Sasikala termed as a ‘rustle’ the revolt by Mr. Panneerselvam and said the party would not get ruffled by the development. “I will not get scared,” she said.

Calling upon her party colleagues to remain committed to fulfilling the dreams of Jayalalithaa, she said “no force can stop us, because we have the power called Amma [Jayalalithaa].”

Rebuts OPS

Referring to Mr. Panneerselvam’s charge that he was kept in the dark about the Sunday meeting of the legislators, Ms. Sasikala said no one would believe it as the print and electronic media carried items regarding the meeting. “The meeting of MLAs on [February] 5 was not a secret one,” she observed.

On the Chief Minister’s accusation that he was forced [to resign the post], she said it was he who had proposed her name during the meeting. “He sat beside me and kept on talking to me,” she said, wondering what transpired in 48 hours and “with whom, did he discuss?”

Criticising Mr. Panneerselvam for keeping silent when the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam’s senior leader Durai Murugan spoke in the Assembly in his favour, Ms. Sasikala said she could sense that “he [Mr. Panneerselvam] has merged himself with the DMK.” When Ministers and other legislators had felt agitated over the conduct of the Chief Minister, she had counselled them not to express any opinion in deference to the position held by Mr. Panneerselvam.

“It is not that I cannot comprehend the inner meaning behind the exchange of words between the Chief Minister and the DMK. As general secretary, it is my duty to ensure that this does not go to the next stage.”

Ms. Sasikala asserted that “betrayals have never won. More so, they cannot vanquish the AIADMK. “Enemies of the party were showing “their true colours”, she said.

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