In a major boost to Tamil Nadu’s acting chief minister O Panneerselvam, five more MPs joined his camp on Sunday while his bitter rival AIADMK general secretary VK Sasikala drove up to the Kuvathur Golden Bay Resorts to talk to MLAs for the second day running and launched a counter offensive.
For the first time since MLAs were bundled in buses and lodged at this luxurious resort, the media was allowed inside where she addressed them, as the MLAs stood behind her.
“Look at these people. How free they are and this proves all the false claims being made by those opposing us. They are living here like good family members. They were saying MLAs were kept in detention. But see for yourselves, how free they are,” Sasikala said who is locked in a bitter feud with Panneerselvam.
Sasikala launched a counter offensive saying that her MLAs were complaining that their family members were being threatened with dire consequences if they continued to support her.
“MLAs have told me how their family members are being threatened over phone. They said they will take away their girls,” Sasikala said.
“I lived for over thirty years with a lioness. And I have become a lioness and all of you are also lions,” she said addressing the MLAs. “OPS will be defeated,” she declared and asked the MLAs to stay united to save the party from ‘traitors’.
But no media person was allowed to question or talk to the MLAs.
Sasikala appeared unfazed when asked about the impending judgment in the Supreme Court in the disproportionate assets case. “Or do you have any news in advance? Let it come, we will see,” she answered, sounding very confident ahead of the verdict, expected in a few days.
Asked about her protest plan if governor did not invite her, she said “some preparatory work is being done for that.”
Jaya TV footage later showed an emotional Sasikala insisting that the party will overcome the challenge that it is facing.
Earlier, the media persons were manhandled and abused by AIADMK private guards, who also snatched camera and cellphones of a couple of media persons. They also allegedly smashed a camera of a video journalist outside the resort, where journalists sat on a protest and alleged police was not taking action against “goons.”
Sasikala’s decision to allow journalists into the resort is also seen as an attempt to counter all the negative publicity the “detention” of the MLAs was generating.
The AIADMK leadership of Sasikala’s faction has instructed its cadres and supporters not to mention BJP or criticize BJP under any circumstances. They have been asked to blame the DMK for the whole crisis.
Meanwhile, the mood at the Greenways residence of chief minister O Panneerselvam was electric with the arrival of each new MP extending support. Out of the AIADMK’s 50 MPs in Parliament, 10 MPs have pledged support to OPS. The five new arrivals on Sunday included Lok Sabha MPs R.P. Marutharajaa, B.Senguttuvan, Jeyasingh Thiyagaraj Natterjee, Lakshmanan and Rajya Sabha MP Rajendran.
But the game is still wide open, felt a political analyst who said “only MPs are coming, the MLAs still seem to be solidly behind Sasikala. But we have to wait and watch if as Pandiarajan (minister) said the trickle will turn into a torrent.”
So far, only a few MLAs have arrived at OPS’ residence.
But Panneerselvam, speaking after Sasikala had spoken, asserted that at no cost will he and his supporters allow Sasikala to become the chief minister. “All the MLAs will come here,” he insisted and added “I will be the chief minister without any doubt.”
The chief minister requested all the MLAs to go back to their respective constituencies and listen to their voters and act according to their conscience. He reminded the people that he was the one person Amma chose as the chief minister. But Sasikala continued to insult him and humiliated him, Panneerselvam said.
“Today we have seen what all was being shown from the resort. The MLAs have been confined in the resort and she is saying they are free. But it is not the truth,” the chief minister said.
Asked as to why as chief minister he was not sending police to free the MLAs, he said that he did not want any law and order problem to erupt.
He then raked up Jayalalithaa’s illness and hospitalization to attack Sasikala. “Did she ever come out and talk to you and tell Amma was well?” he asked.