Not forced to stay at resort: AIADMK MLAs

With entry restricted by party supporters, MLAs in small groups said they had come on their own

Updated - February 11, 2017 02:50 am IST

Published - February 11, 2017 01:45 am IST - KANCHeePURAM:

A small road leading to the  resort   at Koovathur saw a flurry of activity, with many AIADMK leaders and Ministers visiting the MLAs on Friday.

A small road leading to the resort at Koovathur saw a flurry of activity, with many AIADMK leaders and Ministers visiting the MLAs on Friday.

Twelve MLAs, supporting V.K. Sasikala’s bid to be Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, interacted with journalists on Friday at a resort 80 km from Chennai, claiming they were there on their own free will.

The interactions took place outside the Golden Bay Resort at Koovathur off the East Coast Road, where the MLAs have been sequestered since Wednesday night. Journalists have been denied access to the resort by a handful of AIADMK supporters, who have blocked the only access road to the resort, about a kilometre from its entrance.

The legislators emerged from the resort twice around noon, in groups of nine and three, all essentially saying the same thing about the current political turmoil, questioning the sudden rebellion by Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam. “It was this same Madhusudhanan who presided over the meeting in which ‘Chinnamma’ was elected on the 5th of this month. It was a unanimous decision. Why did OPS have a change of heart within 48 hours? Who is behind him,” asked Kattumannarkoil MLA N. Murugumaran. He insisted that he was not being threatened and said he was all for the AIADMK’s interim general secretary’s elevation as CM. “Our Ministers are where they want to be of their free will. We are paying for our stay with our own money. There are no restrictions on meeting us,” he said.

When asked how many MLAs were at the resort now, Mr. Murugumaran, who began by saying there were 129, fell silent after Perambalur MLA Ilambai R. Tamilselvan — standing next to him — told him to do so.

MLA Geeta said she had switched off her mobile phone after receiving threatening calls. “People call up round the clock, asking if I have the courage to step inside the constituency again. Members of the IT Wing are behind this. Even woman MLAs like 60-year-old MLA Kasthuri has not been spared,” she said. She pointedly held her phone in front of her throughout the interview to prove that she was in possession of it.

Sholingur MLA N.G. Parthiban blamed the caretaker Chief Minister for his stay at the resort. “I was at the MLA Hostel. The CM summoned me and I felt that it was a threat. Frustrated, I decided to come here,” he said, holding up his mobile phone. The first set of MLAs emerged around noon after AIADMK supporters had a brief altercation with reporters who tried to reach the resort’s gate. There was another tense moment in the afternoon when a group of local youth protested loudly at the restrictions placed on the road to the resort.

Ministers’ visit

Three MLAs from Erode district came out about 30 minutes after the first group did. Tirupur South legislator S. Gunasekaran, whose wife and son were later allowed into the resort, was their spokesperson. “This trip was not organised by anyone. We were talking to each other and thought this would be a good strategy to strengthen the party. We are all together here and the party only gets stronger this way,” he said.

With the MLAs declaring their location, the Additional Public Prosecutor’s claim before the court earlier in the day that he did not know their whereabouts was exposed. During the day, AIADMK leaders visited the resort in their official cars: Ministers Edappadi K. Palanisamy, C. Vijayabaskar, Dindigul Sreenivasan and Sellur K. Raju were at various points seen going in and out of the resort. Within minutes of his appointment as presidium chairman of the AIADMK, K.A. Sengottaiyan was seen visiting the resort. However, none of the Ministers interacted with the waiting journalists; uniformed police personnel were not seen at the area even though plainclothesmen from the local police station were seen at one point. A second, but smaller, group of MLAs is reportedly lodged at a resort in Kunnathur, 15 km from the Golden Bay Resort. The group at Koovathur seemed to be preparing for the long haul: at least three vehicles carrying kitchen equipment were seen going towards the resort. An individual who knew of the transaction said 100 cans of drinking water were to be delivered by Friday evening.

The resort’s location naturally lends itself to discreteness. It is surrounded on three sides by the lake. The only approach road passes through empty plots and hence, any vehicles approaching it can be spotted from afar. Three buses, which ferried the legislators to the resort, are parked within the perimeter walls. The main gate of the property was a hub of activity, with several cars parked in front.

This newspaper spotted the resort from a fisherman’s fiber boat. “I will gladly take you inside if you want. We all need to know what is going on,” said B. Vijayakumar, the fisherman who lives in the area and is a member of the PMK’s fishermen’s wing.

As the sun set, a nearby Sivan Koil began playing devotional songs. For some reason, at 6.50 in teh evening, they played the Sri Venkateswara Suprabhatam.

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