India

Sasikala hits back at O Panneerselvam, locks MLAs for Governor

Sasikala hits back at O Panneerselvam, locks MLAs for Governor

Will probe Jaya death, I have people’s backing, claims Panneerselvam.

A day after caretaker Chief Minister O Panneerselvam revolted against her and claimed he had been forced to resign, AIADMK general secretary Sasikala rallied party MLAs and herded them into buses which drove to hotels and farmhouses to keep the flock intact ahead of an anticipated floor test in the Tamil Nadu assembly.

Governor C Vidyasagar Rao is expected in Chennai Thursday, a development that made the Sasikala camp drop the idea of flying the MLAs to New Delhi and parade them at Rashtrapati Bhavan to demonstrate her strength.

Calling Panneerselvam a “liar” and his rebellion a “betrayal”, Sasikala claimed the support of 131 of the 134 AIADMK MLAs and said she would defeat all attempts to destroy the party. She also hinted that arch rival DMK may have had a role in the revolt, claiming that its leader M K Stalin was happy about the latest crisis in the AIADMK.

Panneerselvam, who spent Wednesday at his home on Greenways Road, told reporters that he will order a judicial probe, headed by a Supreme Court judge, on the “doubts” over the death of J Jayalalithaa who passed away on December 5.

AIADMK Rajya Sabha MP V Maitreyan, who aligned himself with Panneerselvam, told The Indian Express: “There is tremendous support for Panneerselvam from people across the state. None of these developments or keeping MLAs in custody are significant. What matters is the strength in the assembly when there is a head count.”

Former Speaker P H Pandian, who attacked Sasikala, also showed up at Panneerselvam’s residence in a show of solidarity.

Striking back, Sasikala denied Panneerselvam’s claim that the legislature party meeting held Sunday — it elected her leader — was a secret affair. “The meeting was not a secret, it was reported in the media. No one will believe his claim that he did not know about the meeting,” she said.

On Tuesday night, Panneerselvam had alleged that he learnt of the meeting only at the last minute, after Sasikala had collected signatures of MLAs to make her the legislature party leader and Chief Minister.

At the meeting called Wednesday by Sasikala, 129 MLAs turned up and two sent written consent of their support to her — they were later taken in three buses to five-star hotels in the city.

She told the MLAs that it was Panneerselvam who proposed her name as the legislature party leader and sat next to her at the meeting: “He was speaking to me also. How come he had to come out with a lie after 48 hours? What happened?” She then referred to DMK leader Durai Murugan’s remarks in the assembly in which he favoured Panneerselvam’s continuance as CM. She pointed out that Panneerselvam did not respond to Murugan’s remarks.

Sasikala also alleged that Panneerselvam’s interactions with the DMK had “destroyed the meaning of struggle and sacrifice” by the late Jayalalithaa. Recalling that Panneerselvam was in the faction led by MG Ramachandran’s wife Janaki after his death, Sasikala said Amma pardoned him for all that he had done and gave him several opportunities.

On Tuesday night, following Panneerselvam’s revolt, she alleged that Panneerselvam and Stalin were always “looking at each other and smiling” in the assembly. To this, Panneerselvam said that only human beings can smile, not animals, and that smiling is not a crime. Stalin too responded, saying he used to smile and exchange pleasantries with Jayalalithaa as well.

Meanwhile, senior jurists said the delay in the Governor’s visit to the state was not helping matters. K Chandru, former judge of the Madras High Court and a Constitution expert, said the Governor should carry out his constitutional duties. He said it appeared as if the Governor was waiting for the Supreme Court order on the disproportionate assets case involving both Jayalalithaa and Sasikala.

“If the verdict is against Sasikala, she has to step down. So arguments citing ethical reasons to delay the swearing-in ceremony has no legality,” he said.

Online Source: The Indian Express

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