A revolt broke out against V K Sasikala in the AIADMK on late Tuesday with Chief Minister O Panneerselvam dropping a bombshell that he was forced to resign on Sunday to make way for her and hinted that he may withdraw his resignation if people of Tamil Nadu and party cadres so desired.
The normally quiet and unassuming Man Friday of J Jayalalithaa chose to break his silence on the happenings in the party ever since the death of his mentor on December 5, saying he was being “insulted” by senior ministers and leaders who sought to “undermine” him after electing him the Chief Minister.
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In a surprise turn of events on a day when senior AIADMK leader and former Speaker of the state assembly P H Pandian raised the banner of revolt against Sasikala, Panneerselvam made an unexpected visit to Jayalalithaa’s ‘Samadhi’ and sat in meditation for about 40 minutes, creating a flutter in political circles.
Later, talking to journalists he narrated how attempts were made to force him to allow Sasikala’s elevation as CM.
Panneerselvam said his main job after Jayalalithaa’s death was to protect the image of the party and the government as left by the late chief minister, but attempts were made to “sabotage” his endeavours.
On Sunday last, he said, he was called to the Poes Garden residence of Jayalalithaa which is occupied by Sasikala where senior party leaders, MLAs, Ministers and members of her family were present.
“I was called to the meeting about which I did not even know. I went to Chinamma (Sasikala) and they asked me to resign. They said I should resign to make Sasikala the CM. I asked them what’s the necessity for an MLAs’ meeting. They said both the positions of party general secretary and the CM should be with one person,” he said.
“For two hours they tried to convince me. But I asked them whether it is fair to ask me to resign after having elected me the leader of the AIADMK legislature party which I did not want in the first place. Still, I tolerated all the insult just to maintain party discipline.”
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Pannerselvam said he wanted to go to Jayalalithaa’s ‘Samadhi’ to “vent out everything that was in my mind” but was not allowed.
“At that stage, they forced me, saying you should follow party discipline. I resigned because I was forced to,” he said.
“I want a CM who will protect the people of the state and the state, even if it is not OPS. But he should protect the image of the government that Jaya provided us. I will fight for it to the last even if I am alone,” he said.
When asked if he could withdraw his resignation, Panneerselvam said,”Yes, if people of the state, and party cadres desire so, I will do it.”
Narrating the sequence of events since the last days of Jayalalithaa in Apollo hospital, Panneerselvam said the late chief minister’s soul pushed him to say something which was why he was presenting himself before journalists. He said almost 70 days after Jayalalithaa was in Apollo hospital Sasikala had discussion with him about how to run the party and the government if something untoward happened to Jayalalithaa.
Panneerselvam said he was distressed and asked her what was the need to discuss these issues. Sasikala, in fact, wanted party senior Madhusudhan as General Secretary to which he (Panneerselvam) was not agreeable.
Sasikala said he was nominated twice by Jayalalithaa as chief minister and that the party and the government should not be harmed. Then only I accepted it (the chief minister’s post), he said.
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After two or three days, Health minister Vijay Bhaskar came to me and said Divakaran, Sasikala’s relative, had told him to convey that “you all have become ministers so we are all going back to our town. Let anything happen we are not bothered.”
Panneerselvam said all senior ministers told him that Sasikala should be made General secretary, a post to which she was later elected by the party’s general council.
After that came the Vardha cyclone and I had worked hard to ensure the government machinery tackled the natural disaster effectively. “I worked hard so that no blame should come to government that was running in Amma’s name,” he said.
The Chief Minister said a lot of “bad blood” had already been created.
There was a staggering crisis in Chennai with four reservoirs almost empty. He said he went to Andra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu and got 6 tmc feet of water released for Chennai.
Then came the “uprising” in Chennai and other parts of Tamil Nadu by students, youths and others over Jallikattu.
“I went to Delhi and met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and overnight I got an ordinance cleared through home ministry, law ministry, environment ministry to ensure Jallikattu happened,” he said.
He said it was historic occasion in India when in one day the Governor’s address was made and an ordinance was introduced and passed. The President’s assent was also got quickly. Panneerselvam recalled that when he went to meet the Prime Minister, Lok Sabha Deputy Speaker M Thambidurai and 50 MPs had also sought an appointment with Narendra Modi.
The PMO expressed surprise about the demand because the CM had also sought time and both were to discuss same issue.
“I cried over my torment but I didn’t get any redress,” he said. “Then the revenue minister Udayakumar said Sasikala should become CM. I told Sasikala that is it fair and just that a minister who is appointed by me should say that someone else should become chief minister. If at that time, the Governor asked me to prove majority what will happen. Then I was told that minister has been spoken to and told to correct himself,” he said.
Another leader Sengottaiyan also gave a similar statement. Another minister Sellur Raju condemned Udayakumar’s statement but went to Madurai the same day and made a similar statement.
Then the chief minister said he met his cabinet colleagues and told them that the party’s senior ministers should play a responsible role.
“In public life, one has to tolerate insult. I also adopted patience because I felt the party and the government should not suffer because of my actions,” he said.
It is in these circumstances, the legislature party meeting was called on Sunday about which I had no idea, he said.
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