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Jayalalithaa death to be probed, CM Palaniswami takes step towards AIADMK merger

An investigation into the death of former Tamil Nadu chief J Jayalalithaa was a demand by the AIADMK faction led by O Panneerselvam ahead of an expected merger with the group under chief minister E Palanisami. Jayalalithaa’s residence, Poes Garden, will be turned into a memorial.

india Updated: Aug 17, 2017 17:36 IST
KV Lakshmana
KV Lakshmana
Hindustan Times, Chennai
Jayalalithaa,Jayalalithaa death,Jayalalithaa death probe
Supporters of former Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa pay tribute to her in Chennai. Jayalalithaa died in December last year.(AFP file )

Tamil Nadu chief minister Edappadi Palanisami ordered on Thursday a judicial investigation into the death of AIADMK supremo J Jayalalithaa and said her sprawling Poes Garden bungalow will be converted into a museum and memorial.

He said a retired high court judge will investigate the circumstances and prolonged hospitalization of Jayalalithaa before her death last December.

Details of the probe, its scope and name of the former judge would be announced later.

The announcement is viewed as a reconciliatory signal from the ruling camp to rebel leader O Panneerselvam, popularly known as OPS, who ruled the state till early February after party supremo Jayalalithaa’s death.

OPS wanted an inquiry into Jayalalithaa’s death and this remains his top condition for a merger between the two AIADMK factions.

The steps are considered significant in the growing push to unite the two groups as the chief minister reaffirmed a promise made by his ousted predecessor.

During his short stint, OPS had declared that Veda Nilayam, 81, Poes Garden in Chennai — the state’s power address for close to three decades — would be converted into a public museum.

But his wish got tossed away in the state’s political turbulence. The AIADMK split as long-time Jayalalithaa aide VK Sasikala took over the reins of the party in a bitter power struggle and handpicked Palanisami as chief minister.

Sasikala’s dreams too were dashed as the Supreme Court convicted her of corruption in February and sent her to prison for six years. She appointed nephew TTV Dinakaran as her deputy in the party before going to jail and allegedly put relatives and loyalists in the government machinery.

Known as the party’s backroom operator when Jayalalithaa was alive, Sasikala and her family have been staying in the 24,000-square-feet bungalow that wears an estimated value of Rs 90 crore.

Jayalalithaa and her mother, Sandhya, bought the property in 1967. But the yesteryear matinee idol and AIADMK chief, called Amma by her legions of supporters, was not known to have left behind an official will.

The other key demand of the OPS camp is ouster of Sasikala and Dinakaran from the party.

There have been allegations that Sasikala didn’t allow party leaders to meet Jayalalithaa during her treatment in a private hospital in Chennai.

The ruling AIADMK sacked Dinakaran from the party post last week, considered a first step towards mending fences with the rival group.

The OPS camp welcomed the announcements as a step in the right direction.

“We wholeheartedly welcome the decision of the chief minister to turn Veda Nilayam into a museum,” said KP Munusamy, a senior rebel leader.

Also, he said a Central Bureau of Investigation probe would have been better than a judicial inquiry to ferret out the truth more effectively.

Senior state ministers hoped the merger could take place anytime.

For its part, the Opposition alleged that the AIADMK leaders were dancing to a script by the BJP in New Delhi, the ruling party at the Centre.

DMK spokesperson TKS Elangovan said the judicial probe is nothing but hogwash. “If an impartial probe had taken place at the time of her death, truth could have been brought out,” he said.

According to Congress leader Peter Alphonse, it won’t be easy to convert Jayalalithaa’s Veda Nilayam into a museum as any such move will be fraught with legal disputes over the property.

In the absence of a will, legal tangles are highly likely over the former celluloid star and politician’s wealth acquired over a career spanning more than five decades.

Besides the bungalow, she owned a fleet of cars, including two Toyota Prado SUVs, an estate in Kodanad, vineyards near Hyderabad, and gold and diamond jewellery.

Her nephew, Deepak Jayakumar, has claimed that he and sister Deepa are the only legal heirs to Jayalalithaa’s property.

First Published: Aug 17, 2017 17:02 IST