Loyalists of caretaker Chief Minister O Panneerselvam may be rejoicing at AIADMK chief V K Sasikala’s conviction in the disproportionate assets case but are caught in a dilemma over the legacy of late party supremo J Jayalalithaa since she has been indicted by the Supreme Court as well. The loyalists, however, went on to maintain on Wednesday that the former chief minister was a victim of wrong doings by others.
With AIADMK criticising the celebration by supporters of Pannerselvam and questioning whether they were rejoicing the verdict in the case in which Jayalalithaa was also indicted, the rebels contended that her name was misused by others for which she cannot be faulted. “I defend my leader late Jayalalithaa. She was a charismatic leader. We had worked with her for many years. We knew her very well. She had always worked only for the people’s welfare,” veteran AIADMK leader and former Minister, S Semmalai said.
Asked about the verdict indicting Jayalalithaa, he declined to be drawn into the nitty-gritty of the verdict, stating that he was yet to fully go into it, even while standing behind ‘Amma’. “Jayalalithaa was a leader with the pure heart of a child, who could do no wrongs, and she had always been interested only in helping people,” Semmalai, also a sitting MLA from Mettur constituency, told PTI.
On the conviction of Sasikala and others, he said, “Amma cannot be held responsible for the wrongs committed by some others who had used her name.”
Semmalai had been the Health and Education Minister during the 2001-06 AIADMK regime. He was also the Deputy Leader of AIADMK Parliamentary Party, in the 15th Lok Sabha.
Former MLA and another Panneerselvam follower, R M Babu Murugavel said, “Jayalalithaa was a victim. The verdict has strengthened our conviction that late chief minister was made a scapegoat (in the case).” Babu, who was recently expelled from DMDK said there was “no point” blaming Amma. He said Jayalalithaa was focussed only on good governance. He asserted that the alleged wrong doings of others cannot be let to cloud “Amma’s reputation.”
Panneerselvam has not commented on the verdict so far even while appealing to AIADMK MLAs to sink differences and support him for continuance of “Amma’s government” led by him.
The apex court had on Tuesday restored a lower court order convicting Sasikala and two others, while abating charges against Jayalalithaa due to her demise.
Stunned by the body blow dealt to Sasikala’s hopes of becoming Chief Minister due to the order, her supporters sought to turn the tables against Panneerselvam pointing to the celebrations and distribution of sweets in some places. They accused Panneerselvam supporters of celebrating a verdict which they said also went against Jayalalithaa.
Seeking to capitalise on the impasse, PMK founder chief S Ramadoss sought to know why Panneerselvam was maintaining silence on the verdict. “Is it not the attribute of a good chief minister to welcome the verdict against corruption?” he asked.
DMK working president M K Stalin had on Tuesday said that when the trial court gave its verdict in 2014, AIADMK men had labelled it as a result of conspiracy by his party. “All those who were against the trial court verdict are today distributing sweets,” he had said.