AIADMK general secretary VK Sasikala switched into a combative mode playing the victim card on Monday, on the eve of judgment day in a corruption case involving her.
“I will stay here with you all,” an emotional Sasikala told party MLAs inside the Golden Bay resort, where the lawmakers have been corralled to prevent them from bolting.
“I will watch the news along with you and after the good news, we will all go back to Chennai together,” she added, referring to the impending verdict, amid thunderous cheers from her MLAs and supporters.
A two-member Supreme Court bench comprising justices PC Ghose and AK Roy is likely to deliver a verdict in the 21-year-old disproportionate assets case in which former chief minister J Jayalalithaa is also an accused.
The verdict will essentially decide Sasikala’s political fate. If convicted she will be barred from contesting polls for six years and will be rendered ineligible to hold chief minister’s post as the Constitution mandates election to the assembly within six months of assuming office.
She visited the luxury resort near Mahabalipuram for the third day in a row to interact with the legislators and supporters in a bid to keep her flock together, even as the support for her rival, chief minister O Panneerselvam continues to swell.
She also launched a scathing attack against Panneerselvam and called him a “traitor”.
“I always knew he (Panneerselvam) was not loyal to the party. But I can handle 1000s of Panneerselvams,” she said, addressing her supporters outside her imposing Poes Garden residence earlier in the day.
Throughout the day, which saw much political drama, Sasikala made an attempt to change her image of an inaccessible leader, exchanging pleasantries with her supporters and frequently interacting with media.
Enroute to the resort, she stopped by a hut and interacted with people living there. She also spoke to media at least four times, including addressing a press conference she addressed at the resort.
“If I wanted, I could have become the CM the day Amma (Jayalalithaa) passed away. Instead I made OPS the CM. But he has no loyalty and is not trustworthy,” Sasikala said, launching barrage of charges against the chief minister.
“I am to Amma what Amma was to MGR,” she added, alluding to the role Amma played during the regime of AIADMK founder and former state chief minister MG Ramachandran.
“Then, OPS and people along with him had pushed away Amma and sided with Janaki Ramachandran (wife of MGR),” Sasikala said.
Claiming she enjoyed support of the most party legislators and leaders, she said, “The governor must invite me to form the government immediately.”
Earlier, state’s attorney general’s advised governor C Vidyasagar Rao to hold floor test in the assembly within a week to cap the leadership tussle.
In sharp contrast to Sasikala’s proactive approach, Panneerselvam appeared calm. He even attended office and held discussions with chief secretary Girija Vaidyanathan and DGP TK Rajendran on the law-and-order situation in the state.
He then gave an audience to members of the secretariat employees’ association and then went on to announce an ex-gratia of Rs 3 lakh to the parents of the little girl Hasini who was raped and murdered in Chennai a few days ago.
Only time he showed some sign of emotion was while addressing his supporters briefly at his residence in the morning. He appealed to the legislators to listen to their conscience.
He also launched a stinging attack against Sasikala, reiterating all the charges that he had levelled against her ever since he revolted on the night of February 5 after a 45-minute meditation in front of Amma’s memorial at Marina Beach.
He reiterated that party MLAs were held hostage inside the resort, a charge vehemently refuted by Sasikala.
The OPS camp has urged the governor to allow him to withdraw his resignation, made under duress last week while Sasikala staked her claim to form the government on the strength of 134 MLAs.
She submitted a list of 134 MLAs to the governor, a handful of whom has since defected to the OPS camp.
Meanwhile, a high-level meeting was convened by the DMK working president MK Stalin to discuss its strategy in case governor convened the House for a floor test.