BJP cheers Sasikala’s conviction in corruption case, pins hope on Panneerselvam

The BJP doesn’t have the numbers to get its nominee elected the president when Pranab Mukherjee’s term runs out in July. AIADMK support will be crucial.

india Updated: Feb 14, 2017 21:37 IST
Kumar Uttam
Kumar Uttam
New Delhi, Hindustan Times
Sasikala,Sasikala’s conviction,Panneerselvam
AIADMK supporters celebrate in front of acting chief minister O Panneerselvam’s residence in Chennai on Tuesday.(AFP Photo)

The BJP is cheering AIADMK general secretary VK Sasikala’s conviction in a corruption case, which brings to an abrupt end her bid to be the chief minister of Tamil Nadu.

Sasikala, a confidante of late chief minister J Jayalaithaa for more than 30 years, was perceived to be close to the Congress. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah suspected that her husband M Natarajan was working at the behest of the Congress, sources said.

They didn’t want the state, which is vital to its calculation in Parliament, to be led by a person close to the main opposition party especially after their cordial ties with Jayalalithaa.

“It is a serious blow to Sasikala. It is also introspection time for the AIADMK,” BJP general secretary P Muralidhar Rao, also party incharge for Tamil Nadu, told HT.

After Jayalalithaa’s death on December 5, O Panneerselvam, who was named her successor, suspected that Sasikala would try to usurp the party as well as the government. He spoke about it to some top BJP leaders, sources said.

The fears were not unfounded.

Sasikala, a former video parlour who wielded immense clout due to her close ties with Jayalalithaa, was made the AIADMK general secretary on December 29.

On February 5, she was named the legislature party leader that cleared her way to the state’s top job, forcing Panneerselvam to rise in revolt two days later.

But much to Saiskala’s dismay, governor C Vidyasagar Rao was in no rush to invite her to form the government.

“The governor was right in waiting for the judgment,” BJP general secretary Ram Madhav said on Tuesday after the Supreme Court ordered Sasikala’s arrest in the disproportionate assets case.

Irrespective of what happens next in Tamil Nadu, the BJP is sensing a few opportunities.

As a parting shot, Saiskala expelled Panneerselvam and made a Jayalalithaa loyalist, Edappadi K Palaniswami, the CM nominee. But, the BJP remains hopeful of a positive outcome during a floor test.

“If Sasikala faction is going to form the government, they will not be on good terms with the Centre. The NDA will lose favour with the Sasikala faction. They see the present turmoil in Tamil Nadu as the doing of the Centre,” said Dr R Manivannan, who heads the department of politics and public administration at University of Madras.

The BJP as well as the Modi government see immediate gains in Panneerselvam.

The BJP doesn’t have the numbers to get its nominee elected the president when Pranab Mukherjee’s term runs out in July. AIADMK support will be crucial.

The AIADMK has 13 members in the Rajya Sabha, where the ruling coalition is in a minority. The lack of numbers has hurt Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s economic agenda, with several bills failing to make a headway.

Politically, a weak Dravidian party suits the BJP, which is trying to gain a toehold in the state.

“There will be no AIADMK leader who has the political strengthen or moral conviction to stand up against the BJP at the Centre. In Tamil Nadu, no party that wants to win will have an alliance with the BJP. Only a weak party will have an alliance with the BJP,” said AR Venkatachalapathy, a professor at Chennai-based Madras Institute of Development Studies.

First Published: Feb 14, 2017 16:48 IST