Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami on Thursday announced that an inquiry commission headed by a retired High Court judge would be constituted to probe the death of former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa in December last year.
A decision on the judge who will head the commission will be taken in due course, Mr. Palaniswami said, flanked by several senior Cabinet Ministers at the Secretariat.
Not consulted: Deepa
Mr. Palaniswami also said that ‘Veda Nilayam’, the erstwhile residence of Jayalalithaa in Poes Garden here, would be converted into a public memorial , an announcement that was slammed by Jayalalithaa’s niece Deepa Jayakumar, who questioned the unilateral decision sans consultations with heirs. Till date, it is not clear if Jayalalithaa left behind a will bequeathing her vast estate to anyone.
The sudden announcements are essentially seen as a move to put pressure on the AIADMK (Puratchi Thalaivi Amma) to come forward for negotiating a quick merger with the ruling AIADMK (Amma) and to checkmate “ousted” deputy general secretary T.T.V. Dhinakaran, who is in a combative mood.
The Panneerselvam faction had laid down two conditions for a merger — an inquiry into Jayalalithaa’s death (varying from a CBI probe to a judicial probe) and expelling Sasikala and her family from the AIADMK. During Jayalalithaa’s 75-day hospitalisation, only Sasikala and the doctors and paramedical staff had access to her.
A campaign to convert the Veda Nilayam into a memorial was also launched by Mr. Panneerselvam.
The Palaniswami faction recently “nullified” Mr. Dhinakaran’s appointment as deputy general secretary but had not expelled him or distanced itself from Sasikala.
For the record, Mr. Palaniswami said that based on various representations from many different organisations, “an inquiry commission headed by a retired High Court judge will be constituted to investigate Amma’s (Jayalalithaa) death.”
While Mr. Panneerselvam did not react to the announcements, his follower former Minister Ma Foi K. Pandiarajan, tweeted “Victory for #OPS dharma yuddham! All 3 key demands by OPS met decisively! Time to transparently negotiate for a merger! #UnitedAdmk”. Mr. Panneerselvam is expected to respond on Friday after holding consultations with other leaders.
Apollo Hospitals welcomes inquiry
Welcoming the decision to set up an inquiry commission, Apollo Hospitals in a statement said “the team at Apollo Hospitals, which relentlessly fought to save her, is confident that the Committee will bring to light the outstanding treatment and care she received.” The findings of the Committee “will put to rest all the unfounded speculation in this regard.”
The Chief Minister said, “to enable people to know her achievements and sacrifices, Veda Nilayam will be converted into a public memorial and people will be given access to it.”
Following the announcement, reporters and photographers who went to Poes Garden were not allowed access to the lane leading to Veda Nilayam and were turned away by police personnel. Deepa Jayakumar claimed that she and her brother were the legal heirs to the property and questioned how anyone could take it away from them.
OPS camp divided
Leaders in the Panneerselvam camp who spoke to The Hindu however seem divided on the announcement of the inquiry commission. While Mr. Pandiarajan welcomed both the announcements, party presidium chairman E. Madhusudhanan said a CBI inquiry was important and it was necessary to go into the medical records of Jayalalithaa since the time Sasikala was readmitted into the Poes Garden household in 2012.
Mr. Pandiarajan, however, said the time was ripe for transparent talks.
“We welcome these announcements. We need to move to the next stage. While I can’t disclose what will be the scope of discussions, it is for both OPS and EPS to sit down and work out the finer details,” he said.
Issues such as party structure and who gets what responsibility need to be thrashed out, he added.