OPS Gains Strength, Guv’s Silence Worries Sasi
By Sunday noon, Panneerselvam had 1 minister, 6 legislators, 10 MPs & 2 senior party leaders by his side
Chennai: Tamil Nadu’s political situation continued to be on the boil on Sunday as Chief Minister O Panneerselvam gained more support and the VK Sasikala-led fac- tion betrayed desperation even as Governor Vidyasagar Rao remained silent. By Sunday noon, Panneerselvam had one minister, six legislators and10 Members of Parliament and two senior party leaders, forcing Sasikala to redouble effort to retain MLAs.
Trying hard to stem crossovers to the Panneerselvam camp, Sasikala had met the sequestered legislators twice over the weekend. On Saturday, a determined Sasikala vowed to take steps necessary to claim power as her patience waiting for the Governor’s invite was wearing off. “The AIADMK MLAs are with us,” she asserted at Poes Garden before leaving for the remote resort holding legislators purportedly in her support. Asked about the continuous defection key members of the party, she replied cryptically: “By now, you would know who is behind this. The MPs are moving, which should tell you who is behind this crisis,” she said. Remembering how former chief minister Jayalalithaa managed to
STILL IN CONTROL
unify the factions after the death of MG Ramachandran, she said her journey as a politician faces a similar moment. “For a woman to be a politician is not an easy one. Such disturbances are not unusual for us,” she said. If the impasse continues, Sasikala had warned she would up the ante to claim power. Rumours of an OPS-like protest near Jayalalithaa's grave abounded as she sped to the luxury retreat, followed by AIADMK leader KA Sengottaiyan and fisheries minister D Jayakumar. Member of Parliament R Laksh- manan, minutes after arriving at Panneerselvam’s residence, said: “This is not a decision I had taken on my own. After consulting with the people of my constituency, I took this decision." The OPS camp was unruffled by Sasikala’s attempts to ring-fence her legislators. Although it was a long way from majority, their confidence remained intact. “We are very clear in our conscience and acts. We strongly believe the legislators, if allowed to be free, will stand by us,” said Rajya Sabha MP V Maitreyan. Questioned why there is more support from MPs than MLAs, Maitreyan said: “It’s simple. The MPs are free; the MLAs are not.” The game of numbers is still tilted in favour of Sasikala as her camp claimed the support of 127 legislators, with the Mylapore legislator R Nataraj asserting in a Facebook post that he is attending to duty calls over “petty politics.”
Even as both factions staked claim to the AIADMK mantle, public attention and that of observers turned to Governor Vidyasagar Rao, whose silence appeared to rattle the Sasikala faction and embolden Panneerselvam. AIADMK Rajya Sabha MP R Vaithilingam, speaking outside Poes Garden on Sunday afternoon said,“We are hopeful that the Governor will take a positive step by this evening.”