Tamil Nadu’s acting chief minister O Panneerselvam is locked in a power struggle with AIADMK general secretary VK Sasikala sparking a political crisis on who will be late Jayalalithaa’s successor.
Events took a dramatic turn in the evening of February 7, when OPS (Panneerselvam) announced that he was forced to resign by Sasikala on February 5 for the latter to take over.
Panneerselvam, who claims Jayalalithaa (Amma) told him to take over as CM when she was in hospital, said her spirit later told him that he should come out and tell the truth to the people of Tamil Nadu.
The power struggle can be summarised in the following 10 points:
1. Meditation and then revolt
Feb 7: Panneerselvam goes to Marina Beach in Chennai, and meditates for around 40 minutes at Jayalalithaa’s memorial. Says he was compelled to resign as CM and propose Sasikala’s name for the post of leader of the AIADMK legislature party.
“I was forced to step down… Amma’s spirit told me that I should come out and tell the truth to the people. Jayalalithaa told me to take over as CM when she was in hospital,” he says.
2. Sasikala sacks Panneerselvam as AIADMK treasurer, he asks banks to block party funds
Feb 7: After a meeting with party leaders, party announces that Sasikala has sacked Panneerselvam as AIADMK treasurer and replaced with Dindigul C Srinivasan, forest minister and No. 2 in the council of ministers.
After his sacking, Panneerselvam says, “I have carried forward the post of treasurer which was entrusted upon me by Amma and I think no one can take it away from me.” He writes to banks saying he was still the treasurer and no transactions should be done in party accounts without his assent.
3. Panneerselvam announces plan to probe Amma’s death, Sasikala parades MLAs
Feb 8: Panneerselvan says he personally does not have any suspicion on the death of Jayalalithaa, but that a commission of inquiry headed by a sitting Supreme Court judge will be set up to probe into the death.
“Doubts about Amma’s health still prevail. A probe commission will be set up… health queries regarding Amma have been raised in the recent past. It’s the duty of the state government to enquire. Recommended an enquiry commission,” he says.
Makes another major revelation, saying, “I had visited the hospital daily to enquire about Jayalalithaa’s health condition, but couldn’t meet her even once.”
Feb 8: Sasikala parades 130-plus lawmakers in a show of strength to counter the rebellion.
4. Panneerselvan says Sasikala wants only to grab power to grab money
Feb 8: Panneerselvan says Sasikala “does not understand the situation” in Tamil Nadu. Gets support from another AIADMK leader, OP Pandian, who says Sasikala “only cares about money, money, money. She wants to grab power to get money.”
5. Panneerselvan promises to give due credit to Jayalalithaa’s niece Deepa Jayakumar
Feb 8: Panneerselvan promises to meet people in every part of the state. “I will prove my majority and lead the people,” he says. Adds that he will give Deepa (Jayalalithaa’s niece) “the respect she deserves”, and that he will ask her to join his camp.
6. Panneerselvan calls for party polls to elect general secretary
Feb 8: Calls for elections as per AIADMK rules for the post of general secretary, saying the party council has the power only to appoint a temporary general secretary.
7. Panneerselvan says may take back resignation if party wishes
Feb 8: Panneerselvam says he has never betrayed the party and may take back resignation as chief minister if the party so desires. “I have always followed Amma’s path. There has been no instance where I betrayed the party, while remaining in power or opposition,” he says.
8. Panneerselvam parades support of senior legislators, meets Governor
Feb 9: Panneerselvam says Sasikala “betrayed” a 2011 vow to her “mentor” Jayalalithaa by staking claim to form the government.
At a press conference, parades the support of senior legislator E Madhusudanan, who worked with Amma and her mentor MG Ramachandran for more than 50 years.
Reads out a letter Sasikala allegedly wrote to Jayalalithaa, seeking apology for her actions and promising not to seek any political position and use her influence.
Panneerselvam meets Governor C Vidyasagar Rao at Raj Bhavan, alleges most of the party MLAs were being held hostage in a resort outside Chennai and that police were not responding to complaints.
9. Panneerselvam says will prove majority, Sasikala stakes claim to govt, visits Jaya memorial
Feb 9: Panneerselvam declines to reveal the number of legislators who were supporting him and says he will prove his strength on the floor of the house. Says party legislators will have the chance to vote as per their conscience and he would be able to prove his majority.
Feb 9: Sasikala visits Jayalalithaa’s memorial at Marina Beach, pays floral tributes to the late chief minister, before heading to Raj Bhavan to meet the Governor with a list of MLAs loyal to her
Sasikala stakes claim to form the government, while Panneerselvam says “dharma” will triumph.
10. Sasikala holds meeting with MLAs, sacks Madhusudanan, Panneerselvam lodges complaint
Feb 9: Sasikala holds meeting with AIADMK MLAs loyal to her at Poes Garden residence. Reports also say she held a meeting via video link with MLAs kept at the Golden Bay Resorts
Feb 10: Sasikala dismisses E Madhusudanan from the party for backing Panneerselvam, and appoints KA Sengottaiyan as the party presidium chairman.
Feb 10: Panneerselvam lodges formal complaint with Governor on MLAs being held hostage in resort.
Feb 10: Governor Vidyasagar Rao sends report to Union home ministry, says “cannot call Sasikala to form the government now”, asks DGP to probe allegations that MLAs are being kept against their will at the resort.