AIADMK general secretary VK Sasikala on Wednesday hit back at O Panneerselvam, dubbing him a traitor and warning party MLAs against joining the caretaker chief minister’s revolt against her.
Addressing MLAs at the party headquarters in a show of strength, Sasikala said neither the AIADMK nor she would be cowed down.
“All are united and no one can break the party or shake our foundations,” Sasikala said in a short address to around 130-odd MLAs.
The comments came within minutes of Panneerselvam announcing a probe into the death of his predecessor J Jayalalithaa, a move aimed at undermining Sasikala.
Tamil Nadu plunged into a political crisis late Tuesday when Panneerselvam, after “meditating “ at Jayalalithaa’s memorial said, he was forced to quit as the CM.
Panneerselvam was an opportunist, Sasikala said, rubbishing all charges levelled by him. “Amma (Jayalalithaa) gave him many opportunities, I also gave him many opportunities, but he joined hands with the DMK,” Sasikala said.
“Amma was my God for 33 years during which there were many ups and downs, many calamities…She overcame all of those, and I overcame all of those alongside her and we will overcome this one too... I swear this in the name of Amma.”
She also had a warning for Panneerselvam’s supporters. “Anybody who tries to attack the AIADMK will be easily identified and taken to task,” she said.
Her family members, whose presence at Jayalalithaa’s funeral had raised eyebrows, were present during the meeting.
Rivals derisively refer to Sasikala’s famiy as “Mannargudi mafia”, a reference to her hometown and the alleged corrupt dealings of her family that enjoyed immense clout in early days of Jayalalithaa’s rule.
Sasikala accused Panneerselvam of working with the opposition DMK.
“Panneerselvam colluded with the party which Amma fought against... We will give a big blow to the act of betrayal and disloyalty,” Sasikala said as MLAs cheered her on.
DMK’s working president MK Stalin denied the accusation, saying his party had nothing to do with the internal squabbles of the ruling party.
Panneerselvam was aware of everything and it was shameful that he was claiming the party kept secrets from him, she said. Panneerselvam said Tuesday that the agenda of the meeting in which MLAs chose Sasikala to replace him was not conveyed to him.
His “night show” at the Jayalalithaa memorial was a drama enacted for television channels and not for the MLAs, who had firm belief in AIADMK, Sasikala said.
A senior AIADMK leader said all party MLAs were backing Sasikala. “She will have to be sworn in as the chief minister, as she is the elected leader of AIADMK legislature party,” the leader said.
The party MLAs would meet the governor and stake claim to the government and could even seek an appointment with President Pranab Mukherjee, if needed, the leader said.