The spotlight on Tamil Nadu’s political battle shifted to governor C Vidyasagar Rao on Thursday as AIADMK general secretary VK Sasikala staked claim to form the government even as acting chief minister O Panneerselvam dug his heels in and said “dharma” will triumph over intrigue.
Panneerselvam and Sasikala, elected the AIADMK legislature party leader, met the governor separately at the Raj Bhavan though it was not immediately known what transpired in the meetings.
Panneerselvam, who was named the chief minister 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 afternoon, 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 Supreme Court verdict on a disproportionate assets case in which Sasikala is an accused. According to sources, the verdict could come early next week.
“I briefed the governor about the political developments in the state, want to stress that dharma will win” -O Panneerselvam
“We had a detailed discussion…about all that is happening in Tamil Nadu...For sure, good thing will happen, dharma will win,” Panneerselvam told reporters at his residence after returning from the Raj Bhavan.
He quoted a popular Tamil verse of nationalist poet Subramanya Bharathi, the import of which is, “though dharma could be eclipsed by intrigue, it will be dharma which will triumph ultimately”. He, however, did not take any questions.
Shortly afterwards, Sasikala visited Jayalalithaa’s memorial at Marina Beach prior to her meeting with the governor.
Attired in her signature green saree, a teary-eyed Sasikala placed before at memorial an envelope believed to be the list of MLAs who have endorsed her candidature for the top post.
While Sasikala submitted the list to the governor, Panneerselvam is said to have handed over a situation report besides alleging that the MLAs were held captive.
Panneerselvam’s meeting with the governor was over in a just a little over 10 minutes, Sasikala and her team was inside Raj Bhavan for half an hour.
Earlier in the day, a defiant Panneerselvam took a raft of decisions including freezing AIADMK funds and declaring that the Poes Gardens residence of Jayalalithaa will be converted into a memorial.
The bungalow in a tony neighbourhood of Chennai was bought by Jayalalithaa when she was a film actor and had not joined politics.
Sasikala continues to live in the house where she spent many years as Jayalalithaa’s close aide.
The Panneerselvam camp scored a moral victory when senior AIADMK leader and chairman of party presidium E Madhusudanan walked over to his side and launched a broadside against Sasikala.
Minister M Foi Pandiarajan, a key member of the Sasikala camp, however, played down Panneerselvam’s chances.
“We have the numbers and we have elected Chinnamma as our leader. She will form the government and no traitor can break the party and soon they will realise that it is a pipedream,” said Pandiarajan, one of the ministers who accompanied Sasikala when she called on the governor.
“Why has OPS woken up now, after pleading with Sasikala to become the general secretary?”
In Delhi, Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan rejected an adjournment motion by AIADMK floor leader P Venugopal asking the Tamil Nadu governor to expedite the swearing in of Sasikala as the chief minister.
“The notice is regarding the conduct of the governor who is a constitutional authority. This can’t be discussed in the House. So I can’t allow,” she said after AIADMK members created a ruckus over the issue.
AIADMK members also created uproar in the Rajya Sabha on the issue.
(With inputs from HTC Delhi and agencies)