Ordered back to Bengaluru jail, AIADMK general secretary V K Sasikala left the Golden Bay Resorts outside Chennai Tuesday evening but not before telling her party MLAs that “no force can separate me from my party… no matter where I am, I will always think of the party”.
Fighting back tears, Sasikala, in an emotional speech aired by party channel Jaya TV, said: “They can only imprison me but not my love for you and the party. Even if I go to prison, my concern towards the party and people will not come down. I will be always thinking about the party.”
If her conviction Tuesday morning had the rival AIADMK camp celebrating, the day didn’t exactly progress the way caretaker Chief Minister O Panneerselvam and his supporters had imagined. Because not a single MLA switched loyalties.
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Disheartened, Panneerselvam alleged that the MLAs were being kept hostage at the resort, that strongmen were not letting them leave. Policemen in large numbers entered the resort but returned later because no MLA was ready to step out, even after being assured security. They were told that buses were waiting outside to take them away from Kuvathur.
In the evening, AIADMK MP V Maitreyan, who has been backing Panneerselvam, led a delegation to Governor C Vidyasagar Rao. At night, hoping to persuade the MLAs, Panneerselvam headed in a convoy to the Jayalalithaa memorial on Marina Beach where he met the late leader’s niece Deepa. Both prayed at the memorial and Deepa said she was joining hands with Panneerselvam.
Sasikala, who reached Kuvathur on Monday evening and stayed overnight, busied herself in the hours before the Supreme Court ruling. “After addressing the media and MLAs, she held separate sessions with MLAs until 11pm on Monday. She also held individual chats with several MLAs. She was seen wiping tears,” said an AIADMK minister who camped at Kuvathur.
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On Tuesday morning, after the verdict, she held an hour-long meeting with MLAs and extended sessions until 3 pm to decide on a new legislature party leader. Sources said each MLA signed multiple affidavits, agreeing with the party decision to elect a new legislature party leader and to support the Sasikala faction in proving majority.
A senior police officer said there were 125 MLAs, including ministers, at the resort. “Our priority was to remove private guards brought from Mannargudi and Pudukottai. Only 30 were there, all were moved out in the morning,” the officer said.
Jayalalithaa’s nephew Deepak was present at the resort. Health Minister C Vijayabhaskar was busy coordinating arrangements at the resort, including food and other facilities for the MLAs. On Tuesday night, almost all ministers, except Education Minister M Pandiarajan who joined the Panneerselvam camp, were at the resort.