The Congress has decided to “stay away” from the ongoing crisis in the ruling AIADMK in Tamil Nadu even as the party is keeping a tab on the developments following allegations that the Centre is “meddling in the affairs” of the southern state.
Congress sources said the party took the decision at a meeting between Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi and leaders of the party’s Tamil Nadu unit in the national capital on Friday.
The Congress would not to take any step that might “antagonise its trusted ally” DMK,” the sources said.
Gandhi had summoned Tamil Nadu Congress president S Thirunavukkarasar and Congress legislature party (CLP) leader KR Ramasamy to discuss the current crisis.
The Congress, which has eight legislators in the 234-member assembly, is vertically divided over supporting AIADMK general secretary VK Sasikala or caretaker chief minister O Panneerselvam.
While Thirunavukkarasar and his loyalists favour Sasikala as the chief minister, former finance minister P Chidambaram and many ex-state unit chiefs such as EVKS Elangovan and KV Thangkabalu want the Congress to stay clear of the AIADMK’s internal crisis.
Sasikala and Panneerselvam are locked in a bitter battle for the control of the AIADMK and also the chief minister’s post with both claiming the support of the majority of the party’s 134 legislators.
There are apprehensions in the Congress camp that the BJP might “carry out an Arunachal Pradesh-like operation” in Tamil Nadu in order to gain “some foothold” in the state.
“To thwart any such move, we have alerted our cadres across Tamil Nadu,” a senior Congress leader said.
In Arunachal Pradesh, the Congress lost its government in September last year when 43 of its 44 legislators in the 60-member House defected and merged with the People’s Party of Arunachal (PPA).
Finally in December 2016, a BJP government was installed in the border state after 33 of the 43 PPA legislators joined the saffron party.
Another Congress functionary said the party will “stand solidly” behind its senior alliance partner in all its moves. The DMK, which fought the 2016 assembly elections in alliance with the Congress, has 89 legislators in the state assembly.
However, the party is also waiting for next week’s Supreme Court verdict in the Rs 66.65 crore disproportionate assets case against Sasikala, a close aide of late chief minister J Jayalalithaa. An adverse judgment could cast a shadow on Sasikala’s plans to become the chief minister.
According to a Supreme Court verdict in 2013, members of Parliament and state legislative assemblies will lose their seats immediately if they are convicted of offences that carry a prison term of more than two years.
The top court also said convicted lawmakers could not contest elections for six years after their release from jail.
A lawmaker could earlier avoid disqualification if his appeal was being heard in a higher court.