Tamil Nadu governor C Vidyasagar might not invite VK Sasikala to form the government till a Supreme Court verdict in a corruption case against her, multiple sources said, in a potential setback to the AIADMK leader tipped to become the chief minister.
Sasikala, locked in a bitter power struggle with acting chief minister O Panneerselvam, is an accused in a disproportionate assets case along with former chief minister J Jayalalithaa.
The top court is expected to deliver its judgment in the case soon, possibly as early as next week.
TV channels said that the governor has sent a report to the Centre citing reasons for his reluctance to act immediately but the Raj Bhavan denied any missive to Delhi.
No report has been sent from Governor C Vidyasagar Rao to Ministry of Home Affairs: Raj Bhavan PRO pic.twitter.com/Q0nHaGzTCr— ANI (@ANI_news) February 10, 2017
As news of the governor sending a report to the Centre did the rounds, ANI quoted Panneerselvam as saying, “Please wait and see.”
On Tuesday, Panneerselvam dramatically announced that he was forced to resign, barely a few days after Sasikala was elected as the AIADMK’s legislature party leader, paving the way for her to be sworn in as the chief minister.
Panneerselvam assumed office in December after the death of his mentor Jayalalithaa, who passed away in a hospital after prolonged illness.
Sasikala has claimed the support of 134 MLAs but Panneerselvam has accused her of keeping the legislators hostage in a resort near Chennai.
Sources said the governor was concerned over the implication of the imminent judgment in the case. Sasikala and Jayalalithaa were convicted by a trial court but the Karnataka high court reversed the judgment and acquitted them.
The Karnataka government moved the top court against the acquittal. If convicted, Sasikala could be disqualified from contesting elections for six years.
If sworn in, Sasikala will have to be elected to the assembly within six months.
Sasikala, however, expressed confidence on Friday that Rao will “uphold the Constitution and democracy”, in comments to party workers at the Poes Garden residence of Jayalalithaa
“With the cooperation of all, this movement will further flourish, so we need not worry. We hope the governor will uphold the Constitution and democracy. We will wait and watch,” she said.
Earlier in the day, Sasikala sacked a senior leader from the party for siding with Panneerselvam even as a luxury resort on the outskirts of Chennai took centrestage.
Panneerselvam lodged a formal complaint with the governor on Friday, a day after meeting him at the Raj Bhavan, alleging that most of the party MLAs were being held hostage in the resort outside Chennai and that the police were not responding to complaints.
SP Shamuganathan, an MLA who claimed to have escaped from being forcibly taken to the resort on Wednesday, also lodged a complaint with the police commissioner.
Another legislator R Kutti, who also moved to Panneerselvam’s camp, said that “when freed”, the MLAs will not be able to go to their constituencies as people were very angry with them for siding with Sasikala.
Governor Vidyasagar asked police to probe allegations that many AIADMK legislators were being held hostage at the resort by the Sasikala faction. In response to separate petitions, the Madras high court also sought the state government’s response to the hostage allegations.
The Sasikala faction, however, paraded some of the MLAs to reject the charges.
“We hope the governor will uphold the Constitution and democracy”
AIADMK spokesperson CR Saraswathi said that her phone numbers “were given to thousands of people and I am getting threatening calls from people close to OPS”, as Panneerselvam is popularly known.
The governor summoned chief secretary Girija Vaidyanathan and police chief TK Rajendran and discussed the law and order situation. The governor is said to be considering a move to call in central forces if the state police failed, sources said.
Chief justice of the Madras high court, SK Kaul, also called on the governor at the Raj Bhavan at the request of the governor. It is understood that the governor wanted opinion on the legal aspects relating to government formation in the given situation.
DMK working president MK Stalin also met the governor to discuss the crisis.
“I requested the governor to do everything he can to provide Tamil Nadu with a stable government. For the past nine months, the government has not been functioning properly,” he told reporters.
Even as the suspense continued, both camps exuded confidence of victory.
While OPS said victory was within sight, Sasikala supporter and MP, A Navaneethakrishnan, said: “Chinnamma will be the chief minister.”
But the political war escalated when AIADMK presidium chairman E Madhusudanan moved the Election Commission to set aside the election of Sasikala as the general secretary of the party.
“No rules and regulations were followed and she was not elected by the proper electoral college as per the constitution of the party,” Madhusudanan said in his petition.
Sasikala hit back by expelling Madhusudanan from the primary membership of the party, a decision which Madhusudanan said was not valid as “she has no authority to sack anyone”.
“I am here to announce very good news. Soon a proper election for the post of general secretary of AIADMK will be held and party men can chose their representative,” he said after his expulsion.
(With agency inputs)