Tamil Nadu is likely to witness intense political acitivity, with chief minister O Panneerselvam refusing to budge in the face of pressure by AIADMK general secretary VK Sasikala, who is eyeing the state’s top job. Sasikala has termed the delay in her swearing-in a ploy to split her party and warned of a “different approach”. The factions vying for the control of the party after J Jayalalithaa’s death have set the stage for a political potboiler.
Follow this space for live updates from Tamil Nadu. But before that, her’s what happened over the weekend.
A group of 120-plus AIAMDK legislators “held” in a private resort near Chennai should be released to go to their constituencies and sense the public mood, acting CM O Panneerselvam has said.
His comments on Sunday came ahead of his first scheduled visit to the state secretariat since the state was plunged in a political crisis that has pit Panneerselvam against party general secretary VK Sasikala with the CM’s chair at stake.
Panneerselvam also alleged that by shedding crocodile tears, Sasikala kept the MLAs on her side.
“Let her release them…so that they can go to their respective constituencies and meet the people and take a good decision,” he told reporters in Chennai.
Stressing that the Tamil people were well aware of the current political scenario, he said, “Not only in India, people across the globe are monitoring the situation.”
Asserting that he was always a staunch loyalist of former chief minister J Jayalalithaa, Panneerselvam said, “In the last 20 years not even once has Amma criticised me.”
He said Deepak and Deepa, the niece of late leader J Jayalalithaa, were the only blood relations of Jayalalithaa.
“When Amma’s mortal remains were in the hospital on the night of December 5, she was not allowed to pay her respects even at that time,” he alleged.
War of attrition
Panneerselvam’s camp has gradually gathered momentum with five more party parliamentarians joining the acting chief minister’s faction on Sunday.
He has said he has the support of more than 30 MLAs – a claim disputed by Sasikala, who paraded her MLAs before the media for the first time since the lawmakers were taken to a resort last Wednesday.
He has also been boosted by governor Vidyasagar Rao indicating that he would wait for a Supreme Court verdict in a corruption case – in which Sasikala is among the accused — that is expected this week.
Sasikala has alleged that the delay of more than a week since she staked claim to form the government is aimed to break the AIADMK. Almost every day of that week has seen one or more party leader jump ship and support Panneerselvam.
On whether the administration had come to a standstill due to the ongoing crisis, Panneerselvam has said he has been meeting government officials every day.
“Every day I am in touch with the officials. Day before yesterday, the chief secretary and DGP met me and we discussed several issues. Tomorrow, I’m going to the secretariat,” he said.
But many say in a state with no elected mayors, village heads and chief minister – and local body polls in limbo. Across the state, city corporations, municipal areas, and panchayats are being administered by special officers because local body elections have not yet been held.
Municipal elections were cancelled last October after the poll notification faced several legal challenges.
Panneerselvam has repeatedly said he would prove his majority on the floor of the assembly.
But the governor indicating he would wait for the top court’s judgment, Sasikala has also warned that her faction would resort to new modes of protest if there was any more delay.
On Sunday’s press conference addressed by AIADMK chief Sasikala, he asked why she did not meet the press when Jayalalithaa was hospitalised and why she was speaking to reporters now.
(With agency inputs)