The legislators of Tamil Nadu’s ruling AIADMK will attend a crucial meeting on Sunday afternoon amid speculations that party general secretary VK Sasikala may replace O Panneerselvam as the chief minister of the state.
Party sources indicated that a leadership change could not be ruled out, but refrained from making any official statement.
AIADMK spokesperson CR Saraswathi too refused to answer any question. “I would be in a position to make a definitive statement only after the MLAs’ meeting at 1.30pm,” she told HT.
The buzz over Sasikala’s appointment as CM came against the backdrop of the party politically rehabilitating several leaders who were shunned by Jayalalithaa, the charismatic Tamil Nadu chief minister who died in December after complications following a cardiac arrest.
The move is also seen as a ploy to thwart Jayalalithaa’s niece, Deepa Jayakaumar, who is said to be in touch with some leaders before announcing her political plan on the late CM’s birthday on February 24 amid talks of a possible succession war.
But Saraswathi did not make much of the role changes, saying it was a routine affair ahead of local body polls that could be held later this year.
Also, at least three bureaucrats believed to be close to the late chief minister have been sidelined -- one of them quit and two others were shifted from the CM’s office. Sources said a rejig in the bureaucracy was also expected.
Political analyst and advocate C Rajashekharan, considered close to the AIADMK dispensation, said: “In all probability, Sasikala will be chosen as the legislative party leader tomorrow and she could be sworn in as the chief minister on Monday itself.”
The process will be smooth, he said, though a small section of the party is believed to be against Sasikala’s rise.
Earlier, Rajya Sabha MP Sasikala Pushpa as well as AIADMK leader KC Palaniswamy had complained to the Election Commission that the elevation of Sasikala as the interim general secretary of the party was carried out in an undemocratic manner.
Sources said the poll panel had sent a notice to the party and Sasikala, seeking clarifications.
The election of the interim general secretary will be declared valid only after the panel is satisfied with the process, sources said.
Sasikala had been Jayalalithaa’s closest aide since the 1980s. She has been taking care of party affairs, although she never held any formal position in the AIADMK before Jayalalithaa’s death.
She is called Chinnamma, meaning aunt, after Jayalalithaa who was known to her legions of devotees as Amma, or mother.
Sasikala, PRO-husband V Natarajan, and their extended family have been called by rivals as the “Mannargudi Mafia”, allegedly for their stranglehold over Jayalalithaa and the party.