Sasikala’s MLAs: ‘Locked up’ in luxury, ‘without’ their freedom
More than a hundred AIADMK legislators corralled into a leisure retreat to stop them from running away to the rival camp are in the lap of luxury — swimming, sauna, massage and fine dining at a floating restaurant. The only luxury they are not allowed is freedom; not even the simple liberty of using their mobile phones.india Updated: Feb 11, 2017 02:24 IST
More than a hundred AIADMK legislators corralled into a leisure retreat to stop them from running away to the rival camp are in the lap of luxury — swimming, sauna, massage and fine dining at a floating restaurant.
The only luxury they are not allowed is freedom; not even the simple liberty of using their mobile phones.
They are being watched closely and at least five men constantly hovered around a select few MLAs who were allowed to interact with a battery of mediapersons camping outside the locked gates of Golden Bay, a four-star resort at Kuvathur near tourist town Mahabalipuram, 80km from Chennai.
The minders are said to be party toughs ferried from across Tamil Nadu.
They listened to each and every word the handful of MLAs, among them SM Das Pandian and Tamil Selvan, said to reporters on Friday after they were allowed to step out of the resort briefly.
“You have said enough, now get inside,” one of them ordered. The MLA obeyed, meekly.
The “security” is so tight in and around the resort that villagers living nearby are getting claustrophobic. Their movement is restricted, and some of them complained of being bullied.
A television journalist was stopped when she wanted to go in and book a room. When she insisted and threatened to call police, a man at the gate responded: “Do whatever you want to.”
Not just the legislators, even the resort staff have been barred from using their mobile phones.
Pandian denied that their phones have been confiscated. “We switched off our phones and will come out only after Chinamma calls us,” he said.
Another legislator, HT Ramachandran, said he has been in touch with people of his constituency over the phone.
But party parliamentarian V Maitreyan, who supports chief minister O Panneerselvam, expressed his doubts. “Let the MLAs come out. As long as they are there, they have to say what they are told to say.”
It is highly unlikely that these legislators will walk out soon as the power struggle between Panneerselvam and AIADMK chief VK Sasikala escalated in Chennai.
Sasikala packed off all her MLAs to the resort on Wednesday night — to be guarded against any attempt by the rival camp to poach them.
She suffered a setback as Panneerselvam complained to the governor that legislators were being taken hostage, while the Madras High Court asked police to find out the whereabouts of the “missing” MLAs.
To avoid a “hostage crisis”, a few MLAs were selected and paraded before TV cameras. Pandian said they were staying at the resort on their own will, a line that AIADMK spokesperson CR Saraswathi asserted later.
The confinement apart, the resort offers almost every bit of luxury that the legislators could ask for.
Equipped with all material comforts, it boasts of a large swimming pool and a floating restaurant, apart from private beach for angling, fitness centre, sauna, spa, water sports, massage and steam rooms.
This four-star leisure retreat charges anything between Rs 5,500 and Rs 10,000 a day for a room depending on the size and category.
The MLAs were brought to the resort around 11pm in two buses on Wednesday. After an hour, there was another busload of AIADMK leaders and supporters. Ministers came in different vehicles.
A smaller batch of MLAs was lodged at another resort close to Kalpakkam. At both places, the members were kept under close surveillance and were not allowed to step out.
The ending lines of Hotel California, the iconic chartbuster song of American band Eagles, best exemplifies their predicament. “You can check out any time you like/But you can never leave!”