By his rebellion after hearing the inner voice of Jayalalithaa meditating at her last resting place on the Marina beach late at night last Tuesday, Tamil Nadu chief minister O Paneerselvam has queered the pitch for V K Sasikala occupying the seat of power at Fort St George in Chennai.
He told mediapersons he had submitted his resignation to Governor Vidyasagar Rao under duress adding a new dimension to the murky goings on unleashed by the late Jayalalithaa’s confidant Sasikala, her husband Natarajan, brother and some other members of her family.
The most intriguiging aspect was the sudden disappearing act from the Raj Bhawan in Chennai to the national capital New Delhi and then to Mumbai being the Governor of Maharashtra. He has since returned to Chennai on Thursday as he is holding additional charge as Governor of the southern state.
Eyebrows have been raised about the Governor being absent in Chennai when a constitutional crisis had arisen about the leadership crisis in the AIADMK. It was for the Constitutional head of the state to resolve the power tussle that had arisen with Sasikala laying claim to the office of chief minister and Paneerselvam questioning it.
After consulting the central leadership about the imbroglio in the ruling AIADMK the Governor appears to be biding for time till the Supreme Court gives its verdict in the DA case on Tuesday, the fourteeth of February even though Sasikala has been given a clean chit by the trial court. The “”Mannargudi mafia”” comprising the relatives of Sasikala are working overtime in evolving strategies aimed at keeping “”chinnamma”” (Sasikala) ahead of the other chief ministerial contender — OPS as Panerselvam is known.
Be that as it may, the Centre appears to be in some discomfiture if the scheming Sasikala with no political and administrative experience being enconsed as chief minister. She is claiming the backing of no less than 129 legislators out of the 134 in the 234-member state assembly. This assumes significance as the AIADMK has a solid block of 50 votes in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. The importance of this has not been lost by the Lotus party in the wake of the upcoming Presidential election later this year in July when Pranab Mukherjee completes his term in Rashtrapati Bhawan.
In a flurry of interviews ‘OPS’ as Paneerselvam is known has promised a judicial inquiry into the late Amma’s medical treatment while the Sasikala camp claimed that most of the MLAs are with them. These legislators have been lodged in a resort outside Chennai so that they do not break free and join the OPS camp or get involved in horse trading.
That is natural in the prevailing circumstances as none of the legislators want a snap poll with nearly four-and-a-half years remaining as Jayalalithaa had won a second successive term in office in May last year. She broke the cycle of the two Dravidian parties in Tamil Nadu coming to power alternately over the last three decades.
There is no doubt that the people voted Amma and Amma alone for her welfare schemes like the reasonably priced Amma canteens and Amma pharmacy where medicines are sold at half the price which have became very popular. It is widely believed that making Sasikala the chief minister would be a big mistake at this juncture in the event of her conviction by the Supreme Court next week. On the other hand Sasikala in a game of political oneupmanship is desperately trying to get installed as chief minister at the earliest before the Apex court gives its verdict.
Simultaneously constitutional experts argued that the Governor will have to go by the sense of the legislators and if a majority of them favour Sasikala then she will have to be installed as chief minister. She will, however, have to prove her majority in a specified time frame on the floor of the Vidhan Sabha.
The revolt by OPS is slowly but surely beginning to create ripples. He might be handicapped on account of having already submitted his resignation as chief minister to the Governor. OPS has talked aloud if the people of Tamil Nadu desire he is willing to withdraw his resignation.
The expectation is that the handful of MLAs supporting OPS at this juncture is bound to increase. It is believed this can have long term implications for Sasikala. Her proximity to Jayalalithaa is the only thing that has weighed in her favour and managed to give her the advantage over Deepa Rajkumar, the neice of Jayalalithaa, who is making a bid to inherit the political legacy without ever having been associated with politics.
The social media has been stoutly opposed to Sasikala becoming the chief minister rather than OPS who has held fort three times as chief minister and at least twice when Amma had to step down. Besides, he has come up the ranks in the AIADMK and made its treasurer.
The intrigues and rivalry between Sasikala and OPS are only increasing with the latter biding his time as MLAs are calling him on the telephone and extending their support.
OPS appeared pleased after his meeting with the Governor when he apprised Vidyasagar Rao about the political crisis in Tamil Nadu. He kept things short observing to the media and his supporters that “”truth will prevail”” indicative of his faction enjoying an upper hand. While the Raj Bhawan has got into the act of trying to resolve the leadership tangle by listening to both the factions in the AIADMK, patience is the need of the hour. It is now for Vidyasagar Rao to ensure that a stable and viable government assumes office at Fort St George in Chennai.”