The ruling AIADMK in Tamil Nadu descended into chaos once again two months after the death of its popular leader J Jayalalithaa. The AIADMK, which had beat anti-incumbency sentiments to come back to power in July, 2016, is currently reeling under a leadership crisis.
How it began: Sasikala elected leader of legislature party
VK Sasikala, the long-time aide to Jayalalithaa who was voted general secretary of the AIADMK earlier, was elected on Sunday as the leader of the legislature party. At a meeting of the party lawmakers, Sasikala’s name was proposed by chief minister Panneerselvam.
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Sasikala had said that it was Panneerselvam who insisted that Sasikala become the chief minister of Tamil Nadu. Her election as the general secretary of the party cleared her way to replace O Panneerselvam as chief minister. Her election was opposed by expelled AIADMK leader Sasikala Pushpa and Jayalalithaa’s niece Deepa Jayakumar.
Panneerselvam resigns on Sunday
O Panneerselvam, who was sworn in as chief minister within hours of Jayalalithaa’s death on December 5, resigned voluntarily citing personal reasons. After his resignation, he wrote two letters, to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and to Tamil Nadu governor Vidyasagar Rao, thanking them for their support.
Panneerselvam raises banner of revolt
On Tuesday night, Panneerselvam meditated at Jayalalithaa’s samadhi at Marina beach for 40 minutes, after which he spoke to the media and announced that he was forced to resign and that he would fight, until his death, for democracy in the party. Panneerselvam also said that he was not informed in advance about the legislature party meeting held on Sunday and the decision to elect Sasikala as the leader was communicated to him at the last moment.
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He also said that he was willing to withdraw his resignation if the people willed it. Late into Tuesday night, Sasikala removed him from the position of treasurer of AIADMK and accused him of being hand in glove with the DMK. He denied the allegations and said no one could remove him from the post as it was Amma who had given him that.
BJP lends a helping hand to Panneerselvam
Even though the BJP so far claimed no role in O Panneerselvam’s revolt, sources in the party said they want to ensure the AIADMK stays united and he continues as chief minister. A BJP leader said that the party cannot sit back and just watch the events unfold in Tamil Nadu. Agreeing with the observation, BJP general secretary P Muralidhar Rao said: “When people without any credibility want to become leader, what’s wrong in BJP wanting to be a player in Tamil Nadu? There is political instability (in the state), and it’s natural that the BJP, as a party, wants to play a role.” According to sources, BJP have said that they cannot back VK Sasikala’s CM candidature as such a scenario will come with “too much baggage”. BJP, however, had initially expressed no reservations against Sasikala becoming the chief minister.
Tamil Nadu Governor to reach Chennai as Sasikala moves MLAs to five-star hotel
VK Sasikala has been pulling all stops to keep the party flock intact ahead of highly anticipated floor test in the state assembly as most of the party MLAs who pledged their alliance to Sasikala were moved to five-star hotels and farmhouses on Wednesday. Sasikala described Panneerselvam’s rebellion as a “betrayal” and called him a “liar”. She also accused him of colluding with DMK working president, M K Stalin to “destroy” the party. Tamil Nadu Governor C Vidyasagar Rao, after having been largely absent from the whole crisis in Tamil Nadu, is expected to reach Chennai to discuss the crisis with Sasikala and the 131 AIADMK MLAs who have backed her.
Panneerselvam orders to convert Jayalalithaa’s Poes Gardens residence into a memorial
In a move that could take the roof away from over VK Sasikala’s head, O Panneerselvam on Thursday issued orders to convert J Jayalalithaa’s Poes Garden residence into an “Amma Memorial”, pushing the crisis further away from a solution. But all his moves as caretaker chief minister could be overturned, subject to a change in the leadership after much anticipated assembly floor test.