With uncertainty looming large over Tamil Nadu politics following the revolt of outgoing chief minister O Panneerselvam against chief minister-in-waiting VK Sasikala, in charge governor Ch Vidyasagar Rao is in the limelight again.
Maharashtra governor Rao, who holds additional charge of Tamil Nadu, is said to be waiting for instructions from Delhi on the further course of action. “As a governor, he is supposed to act independently. But being a hardcore and disciplined worker of the BJP, he will certainly not go against the wishes of the top leadership in Delhi,” a senior BJP leader close to Rao said.
Though Sasikala might be enjoying the support of majority of AIADMK legislators as things stand now, Rao might use his discretion and defer the swearing-in ceremony. “He might as well wait till the Supreme Court delivers its judgment on the illegal assets case. He will probably act upon legal advice in calling Sasikala for taking oath as the chief minister,” the BJP leader said.
Key men in the two camps
Hours after O Panneerselvam revolted, AIADMK general secretary VK Sasikala convened a meeting of MLAs on Wednesday, secured their support and then packed them into luxury buses and sent them off to unknown locations
■ While the AIADMK claimed 130 MLAs attended the meeting in Chennai, chief minister O Panneerselvam claimed support of 50 MLAs
■ Sasikala enjoys backing of all ministers of the Tamil Nadu council of ministers. Key among them are M Foi Pandiarajan and Edappadi K Palanisamy, deputy Lok Sabha speaker M Thambi Durai, senior AIADMK leader Panruti Ramachandran
■ In the OPS camp are former assembly Speaker PH Pandian, his son and former MP Manoj Pandian, Rajya Sabha MP V Maitreyan, AIADMK legal wing chief Durai Pandian, former MP KC Palaniswamy and VC Arava Kutti, Jayalalithaa’s niece Deepa Jayakumar
A native of Siricilla district of Telangana, Rao hails from a family of politicians. His eldest brother, Ch Rajeshwara Rao, was a militant communist leader and four-time CPI MLA from Siricilla, while his second brother, Ch Hanumantha Rao, was a Left-leaning economist and a member of the planning commission.
Only Vidyasagar Rao turned right by becoming the convener of the Karimnagar unit of the Jan Sangh in the ‘70s. After completing his law degree from Osmania University in 1972, he practised law for some time and was also active in Sangh activities. He was jailed during the Emergency period and entered politics full-time after his release.
Rao held several posts in Andhra Pradesh BJP before entering the state assembly as a party MLA from Metpally constituency in Karimnagar district in 1985. He won the elections thrice and was also the president of the BJP state unit during this period. During his stint, the party expanded its wings in the state, particularly in the Telangana region. A great orator, it was because of his ‘padyatra’ from Hyderabad to Ichampalli that the major irrigation project (now Kaleshwaram lift irrigation scheme) became a rallying point for the Telangana movement.
In 1998, Rao contested and won the Lok Sabha elections for the first time from Karimnagar Lok Sabha constituency. He was re-elected to Lok Sabha in 1999 and inducted into the Atal Bihari Vajpayee cabinet.
After he lost all elections since 2004, Rao kept a low profile till he was appointed governor of Maharashtra on August 30, 2014. He became in charge governor of TN on September 2, 2016, after his incumbent K Rosaiah completed his five-year term.