Tamil Nadu Chief Minister O Panneerselvam on Saturday drew more blood from the Sasikala camp in the battle for power with a minister, two Lok Sabha MPs and the AIADMK spokesperson joining him while she issued a veiled warning that patience was “wearing thin” on not being sworn in. With leaders coming under pressure from party cadres and apparent public sentiment against V K Sasikala, School Education Minister K Pandiarajan, P R Sundaram and K Ashok Kumar, both MPs, switched over to the chief minister’s camp in the morning pledging their support.
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In the evening, party veteran, spokesman and minister in the MGR Cabinet C Ponnaiyan drove to the chief minister’s residence and offered his support. A former minister M M Rajendra Prasad also joined the chief minister’s camp. “The leadership of the party and government should be in good hands and that is Panneerselvam who was trusted thrice by Jayalalithaa to be chief minister. All of us should work towards this goal,” he told the cadres with Panneerselvam by his side at the chief minister’s residence where they received him amid thunderous applause.
Rattled by the desertions, Sasikala, who has been elected the leader of the AIADMK legislature party, drove to the luxury resort, 100 km from Chennai, in an attempt to prevent the MLAs who have been put up there for the last three days from switching sides. K A Sengottaiyan, who was appointed the presidium chairman after the removal of Madhusudhanan, told reporters after Sasikala’s meeting with the MLAs that all the MLAs have taken a pledge that they will back her to the hilt till she becomes chief minister.
Kept on wait, Sasikala wrote a letter to Governor Ch Vidyasagar Rao, asking him to take steps immediately to swear her in at the earliest. She said she was ready to parade the party MLAs supporting her before him. She told him she had on Thursday submitted an “elaborate presentation to invite me to form the government as I have absolute majority,” besides the original letter and true copy of the resolution electing her as the AIADMK Legislature party leader.
Sasikala said she believed that the Governor would “act immediately to save the sovereignty of the Constitution, democracy and the interest” of Tamil Nadu. Meeting partymen at her residence, Sasikala also gave a veiled warning over the “delay” in being sworn in and said, “we are being patient because of our belief in fairness and trust in democracy. But we can be patient only to a limit but beyond that we will decide what we will do.”
Attacking Sasikala for her remarks, Rajya Sabha MP Dr V Maitreyan said attempts were being made to create law and order problems in Tamil Nadu and urged the union home minister to take steps to ensure peace.