Sasikala stakes claim, OPS sharp­ens at­tack Ud­dhav’s ministers likely to give him their res­ig­na­tions

TN CRI­SIS Care­taker CM says Amma’s Poes Gar­den home must be a me­mo­rial

Hindustan Times ST (Mumbai) - HT Navi Mumbai Live - - FRONT PAGE - KV Lak­sh­mana klak­sh­ HT Correspondent ht­metro@hin­dus­tan­ Badri Chat­ter­jee­ter­jee@hin­dus­tan­

The spot­light on Tamil Nadu’s po­lit­i­cal bat­tle shifted to gov­er­nor Ch Vidyasagar Rao as AIADMK gen­eral sec­re­tary VK Sasikala staked claim to form the gov­ern­ment even as act­ing chief min­is­ter O Pan­neer­sel­vam dug his heels in, say­ing “dharma” will tri­umph over in­trigue. Pan­neer­sel­vam and Sasikala, elected the AIADMK leg­is­la­ture party leader, met the gov­er­nor sep­a­rately at the Raj Bha­van al­though it was not im­me­di­ately known what tran­spired in the meet­ings.

Pan­neer­sel­vam, who was named CM af­ter J Jay­alalithaa’s death in De­cem­ber, quit on Fe­bru­ary 5, clear­ing the way for Sasikala’s elevation to the state’s top job. The gov­er­nor ac­cepted his res­ig­na­tion the next day, but on Wed­nes­day Pan­neer­sel­vam re­volted, say­ing he was forced to re­sign and was will­ing to re­con­sider his de­ci­sion.

The gov­er­nor, who ar­rived in Chen­nai on Thurs­day, re­port­edly gave no as­sur­ance to ei­ther of the two. He is ex­pected to con­sult le­gal ex­perts and ex­am­ine all claims be­fore him, sat­isfy him­self and then take a de­ci­sion, sources said. The gov­er­nor is un­der­stood to have sent a re­port to the Cen­tre and Pres­i­dent though he has not taken any de­ci­sion. Spec­u­la­tion is also rife that the gov­er­nor could take time to study the is­sue in depth, con­sult le­gal and con­sti­tu­tional ex­perts and wait for the SC ver­dict on a dis­pro­por­tion­ate as­sets case in which Sasikala is an ac­cused. Ac­cord­ing to sources, the ver­dict could come early next week.

With the Mum­bai civic polls less than a fort­night away, the Shiv Sena is turn­ing up the heat on its friend-turned-foe BJP by hint­ing at the mass res­ig­na­tion of its ministers, a move that would jolt the Deven­dra Fad­navis-led Ma­ha­rash­tra gov­ern­ment.

Party sources said the Sena’s ministers in the state gov­ern­ment may sub­mit their res­ig­na­tion let­ters to their chief Ud­dhav Thack­eray on Fe­bru­ary 18, the day of his last pub­lic ad­dress in Mum­bai be­fore the Fe­bru­ary 21 BMC polls. Party sources said the move is aimed at gen­er­at­ing buzz among the Sena’s Marathi vot­ers and at the same time cre­at­ing a pub­lic per­cep­tion that the party is ca­pa­ble of pulling down the BJP gov­ern­ment in the state. “We need to send such a strong sig­nal be­cause we are in a close fight with the BJP in a num­ber of elec­toral wards in Mum­bai,” said a key Sena func­tionary.

The move is also be­ing seen as a way to dis­cour­age the BJP from us­ing its po­si­tion in power to keep Sena work­ers un­der pres­sure from the lo­cal ad­min­is­tra­tion or the po­lice, he said.

The Mum­bai sub­ur­ban col­lec­tor asked the Ma­ha­rash­tra Hous­ing and Area De­vel­op­ment Au­thor­ity (Mhada) to reg­is­ter po­lice com­plaints against the own­ers of 53 Versova bun­ga­lows, in­clud­ing ac­tor Kapil Sharma, who de­stroyed man­grove forests in their back­yard to il­le­gally ex­pand their homes. The BMC has been di­rected to de­mol­ish il­le­gal ex­ten­sions over the next month.

Mhada, which owns the land, has to file FIRs at the lo­cal po­lice sta­tion. HT had re­ported on Jan­uary 9 that no­tices were sent to the bun­ga­low own­ers re­gard­ing the il­le­gal ex­ten­sions, a vi­o­la­tion un­der the En­vi­ron­ment Pro­tec­tion Act (EPA), 1986. The bun­ga­lows, which line a onekm stretch, had been given two weeks to re­spond. While some re­sponded, author­i­ties were not happy with the ex­pla­na­tions.

“In a meet­ing with the state man­grove cell, the BMC and a rep­re­sen­ta­tive from Mhada on Wed­nes­day, the fi­nal or­der was passed to BMC and Mhada to ini­ti­ate ac­tion,” said Deep­en­dra Singh Kushwa, Mum­bai sub­ur­ban col­lec­tor. He said the de­ci­sion was taken af­ter a probe that be­gan in Septem­ber. “We gave the res­i­dents am­ple op­por­tu­nity to ei­ther rec­tify their stance by com­ing for­ward and de­stroy­ing the il­le­gal ex­ten­sions or present us with rel­e­vant doc­u­ments that al­lowed them to make those ex­ten­sions. Since they failed, fi­nal ac­tion has now been initiated,” said Kushwa.


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