OPS revolts, says he was forced to quit

‘Someone with a popular mandate alone should be Chief Minister’

Updated - February 08, 2017 02:30 am IST

Published - February 08, 2017 02:23 am IST - CHENNAI:

Tamil Nadu CM O. Panneerselvam at the Jayalalithaa memorial on Tuesday.

Tamil Nadu CM O. Panneerselvam at the Jayalalithaa memorial on Tuesday.

Tamil Nadu’s politics took a dramatic turn on Tuesday night with outgoing Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam announcing that he was compelled to resign from his post and humiliated while holding the high office. Following this revolt, AIADMK general secretary V.K. Sasikala dismissed him from the post of party treasurer and appointed Dindigul Srinivasan in his place.

Later, addressing the media outside her Poes Garden residence, Ms. Sasikala said all the MLAs were together and would be meeting on Wednesday.

Earlier, hinting that he was not in favour of Ms. Sasikala taking over the reins of the government, Mr. Panneerselvam told the media at the Marina, “Only someone who has the support of all the cadre of the party and the mandate of the people should take charge as Chief Minister. Taking into account the future of Tamil Nadu, someone who can run the party efficiently and as per Amma’s wishes and keep up the good name alone should lead.” Mr. Panneerselvam, who said he wasn’t informed in advance about Sunday’s MLAs’ meeting, added that he would be willing to withdraw his resignation “if people wanted”.

Mr. Panneerselvam’s unexpected show of revolt at the memorial of Jayalalithaa, his political mentor, drew support from a cross-section of people, including AIADMK cadre who converged outside his house in the night. Some Ministers and supporters had assembled outside Ms. Sasikala’s residence.

The Chief Minister took everyone by surprise when he went to the memorial at the Marina around 9 p.m., accompanied by only his personal security staff, and sat in meditation for 40 minutes before alleging that Ms. Sasikala was “annoyed” over his government’s good work during Cyclone Vardah.

“I came here [Marina] because my conscience was pricking me. I have some truth to tell the people of the country and the cadre,” Mr. Panneerselvam said.

The Chief Minister said that when Jayalalithaa was in hospital, he was initially told that the plan was to make senior leader E. Madhusoodhanan the general secretary and him the Chief Minister.

However, after he assumed office, Revenue Minister R.B. Udhayakumar said Ms. Sasikala should also hold office as Chief Minister. This he felt undermined his position and he protested. Similarly, he was taken aback when Health Minister C. Vijaya Baskar told him that Ms. Sasikala’s brother Divakaran had conveyed that she should be general secretary instead of Mr. Madhusoodhanan.

OPS had questioned need for changing CM

Outgoing Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam told the media at the Marina on Tuesday night that he was not even informed about the meeting of the MLAs to elect V.K. Sasikala as leader of the legislature party.

“I didn’t have any information about the meeting. I was told that all the MLAs had been called and their signatures were being taken. I went to Amma’s house. Senior ministers, party officials and relatives of the party general secretary [Sasikala] were present,” he said.

“They informed me that all of us have to work together to make preparations for Sasikala to take over as the Chief Minister. I asked them what was the need for it. They told me that all MLAs are already at the party office, and one person should hold both posts,” the Chief Minister explained.

Mr Panneerselvam said he argued with them for nearly two hours about the need for the change at this juncture. “I reminded them that it was they who forced me to take up the Chief Minister’s post when I refused it after Amma’s death, and was humiliated many times, but no one said anything.

“Finally, they held my hand and told me that if I didn’t support it (Sasikala's elevation), it would go against the principles of the party. I told them I will go to Amma’s memorial and inform 'my mother'. But they didn’t allow me even that courtesy. I was cornered in that situation and was forced to give my resignation.”

The Chief Minister said he was speaking out after being “guided” by Jayalalithaa’s “soul”. “I was working with the mindset that not even a small crack should appear in the organisation (AIADMK) because of me. If required, I will be ready to fight alone,” he said.

Stalin's plea to Governor

DMK working president M.K. Stalin said in the wake of Mr Panneerselvam’s statement, the Governor must intervene and take steps to install a government in its places as per the Constitution. “It looks like there is no government in place presently,” he said.

In a midnight press conference, BJP national secretary H. Raja hailed the Chief Minister saying he had done a great service to the people of Tamil Nadu by coming out openly against Ms Sasikala. “He need not fear for his life,” Mr Raja said.

Governor to reach today.

Tamil Nadu Governor Ch Vidyasagar Rao is expected to return.

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