Sasikala in jail, loy­al­ist could be chief min­is­ter

Gov­er­nor keeps pot boil­ing by giv­ing OPS time too

Hindustan Times ST (Mumbai) - HT Navi Mumbai Live - - FRONT PAGE - KV Lak­sh­mana let­ters@hin­dus­tan­

A week-long po­lit­i­cal drama in Tamil Nadu ap­peared to be headed for a cli­max on Wed­nes­day as two ri­val con­tenders for the chief min­is­ter’s po­si­tion met the gov­er­nor and sources in­di­cated Raj Bha­van would take more time be­fore a de­ci­sion.

AIADMK chief VK Sasikala’s loy­al­ist Edap­padi K Palaniswami met gov­er­nor C Vidyasagar Rao first, in­sist­ing that he was elected leg­is­la­ture party leader unan­i­mously and had the sup­port of 124 MLAs. “We are leav­ing here with the be­lief that the gov­er­nor will safe­guard democ­racy and will in­vite Palanaswami,” said state fish­eries min­is­ter D Jayaku­mar.

An hour later, care­taker chief min­is­ter O Pan­neer­sel­vam drove into Raj Bha­van and told the gov­er­nor that AIADMK leg­is­la­tors were still held “cap­tive” at a re­sort near Chen­nai, where they were taken last week when the po­lit­i­cal cri­sis erupted. “If given a chance, I will prove ma­jor­ity on the floor of the house,” he said.

But party sources said the num­bers were with Palaniswami — who was elected the leg­is­la­ture party chief af­ter Sasikala was con­victed in a cor­rup­tion case on Tues­day — and he could be in­vited by Raj Bha­van in a day or two af­ter Sasikala’s camp man­aged to hold all of its law­mak­ers to­gether.

This dashed the hopes of Pan­neer­sel­vam, who ap­peared crest­fallen af­ter his strat­egy of turn­ing a “trickle” of MLAs to his side into a “tor­rent” failed. Sources in­di­cated with no mass de­fec­tions, his side re­mained woe­fully short of the ma­jor­ity mark of 118 in a 234-mem­ber as­sem­bly.

“All the 124 MLAs are stay­ing at the re­sort of their own free will,” as­serted A Na­va­neethakr­ish­nan, AIADMK par­lia­men­tar­ian.

This also meant Sasikala, 61, ap­peared to trounce her ri­val Pan­neer­sel­vam by scor­ing twin vic­to­ries: Get­ting her proxy Palaniswami as the lead­ing CM can­di­date and con­sol­i­dat­ing her hold on the AIADMK by ap­point­ing her nephew as her deputy.

Rao was tak­ing time to an­nounce his de­ci­sion, sources said, as he was still con­sult­ing le­gal lu­mi­nar­ies and might in­sist on a fresh let­ter of sup­port signed by all MLAs sup­pos­edly back­ing Palaniswami, which may de­lay the for­mal in­vite. Sasikala stops at the memo­rial of J Jay­alalithaa in Chen­nai on her way to Ban­ga­lore to sur­ren­der be­fore the po­lice, in keep­ing with the Supreme Court di­rec­tive on Wed­nes­day.


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