Exactly two months after Jayalalithaa’s death, her long-time friend and AIADMK general secretary V.K. Sasikala was “unanimously” elected leader of the Legislature Party at a meeting in the party headquarters here on Sunday, paving the way for her to become the third woman Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu.
Ms. Sasikala, who has no formal political experience except for the last month-and-a-half, is expected to assume office on February 7 or 9. As per the constitutional mandate, she has to get elected to the Assembly as a legislator within six months of taking charge as Chief Minister.
OPS to quit
Incumbent Chief Minister and party treasurer O. Panneerselvam, who proposed her name for legislature party leader, at the MLAs’ meeting, announced that he would send his resignation to Governor Ch Vidyasagar Rao. The resolution was adopted unanimously. Soon after, dressed in a green saree, Ms. Sasikala arrived at the party head office from the Poes Garden residence, in the Toyota Prado car (TN-09 BE-6167) used by Jayalalithaa.
Addressing the MLAs, 62-year-old Ms. Sasikala acknowledged the loyalty of Mr. Panneerselvam to the party and claimed it was he, who first urged her to take over as the general secretary as well as the Chief Minister, soon after Jayalalithaa’s death. “However, I was not in the frame of mind to accept it then,” Ms. Sasikala said in her speech, which was telecast by party mouthpiece Jaya TV.
With the Governor out of town, the change of guard is likely to take a couple of days. Mr. Rao was in Coimbatore on Sunday and left for New Delhi to attend a private function and his exact date of return to the city is not known, a Raj Bhavan official said.
Meanwhile, Mr. Panneerselvam faxed his resignation to the Governor. “Due to my personal reasons, I am tendering my resignation,” he said, requesting him to relieve the Council of Ministers appointed on December 6, 2016. In a separate letter to the PM, Mr. Panneerselvam thanked him for all the support during his tenure.
Tamil Nadu has on three occasions in the past witnessed persons not elected to the Assembly being sworn in as Chief Minister — C.N. Annadurai in 1967, V.N. Janaki (MGR’s widow) in 1987 and Jayalalithaa in 2001. Of them Janaki had to quit office within 24 days having lost the confidence of the House. Ms. Sasikala’s proposed swearing-in will be the third such event since May 2016 when Jayalalithaa retained power.
Mr. Panneerselvam was sworn in Chief Minister in the early hours of December 6 last year.