Sasikala in jail, loyalist could be chief minister
Governor keeps pot boiling by giving OPS time too
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.