Updated: February 10, 2017 1:07:45 pm
AIADMK general secretary V K Sasikala met Tamil Nadu Governor C Vidyasagar Rao Friday evening and staked claim to form the government after O Panneerselvam, the caretaker Chief Minister who revolted against her, also held talks at Raj Bhavan. Uncertainty continued because the Governor did not say what he intends to do — there were indications though that he would send a report to Delhi and could even seek legal opinion.
Before heading to Raj Bhavan with at least ten ministers, Sasikala, who was elected leader of the AIADMK legislature party last Sunday, visited the J Jayalalithaa memorial on Marina Beach. She placed an envelope with a list of supporting MLAs at the memorial and later handed it to the Governor. Her meeting in Raj Bhavan lasted around 40 minutes.
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In a House of 234 (minus the seat that has fallen vacant after the death of Jayalalithaa), the current strength of the AIADMK is 135. The Sasikala camp claims the support of 120 MLAs. Earlier, Panneerselvam, on his return home from Raj Bhavan, told reporters that “good things will happen” but did not elaborate. “We had a detailed discussion with Governor Vidyasagar Rao about all that is happening in Tamil Nadu… For sure, good thing will happen, dharma will win,” he said. He said he called on Rao along with senior leaders of his camp including AIADMK presidium chairman E Madhusudhanan. He said they have the “blessings” of the late Jayalalithaa. He quoted poet Subramanya Bharathi to underline “though dharma could be eclipsed by intrigue, it will be dharma which will triumph
A leader from the Panneerselvam camp maintained that the list with Sasikala had names of MLAs who were not with her, and that this had been conveyed to the Governor. Panneerselvam has repeatedly said he will be able to prove his strength on the floor of the House but has not disclosed how many of the MLAs back him.
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AIADMK Rajya Sabha MP V Maitreyan, who accompanied Panneerselvam to Raj Bhavan, said they handed over a “confidential document” to the Governor on the latest developments and the reasons for the Chief Minister’s resignation. He said they also raised the issue of “forced captivity” of MLAs.
In New Delhi, senior Congress leader and former Union Minister P Chidambaram said there is no constitutional obligation on the part of the Governor to swear in Sasikala as Chief Minister immediately as he can wait for the Supreme Court verdict in the disproportionate assets case against her. “The Governor has a small window of discretion under exceptional or unusual circumstances,” Chidambaram told The Indian Express. According to the judge, the judgement is around the corner.
AIADMK sources said even if Sasikala is allowed to form the government, reports from across the state suggest that more party leaders might join the Panneerselvam faction, possibly before the date she is asked to take a floor test. If a situation arises in which either faction fails to garner the support of 117 MLAs, the half-way mark, there is a possibility that the DMK may step in to bail out Panneerselvam — for now, the DMK denies any such plan.
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“If Stalin goes for cross-voting in the assembly to help Panneerselvam win the battle, the DMK buys time. It can always withdraw support later,” a senior AIADMK leader conceded. The DMK has 89 MLAs and Congress 8. Sources in Tamil Nadu Congress said the Sasikala camp has already reached out to its chief S Thirunavukkarasu, seeking support of Congress MLAs who are currently in the DMK alliance. A former AIADMK leader and an old friend of Sasikala’s husband M Natarajan, Thirunavukkarasu is said to be keen that his MLAs back Sasikala.
Meanwhile, Panneerselvam told reporters that Madhusudhanan will be the permanent general secretary of the AIADMK and that he will issue orders to turn Jayalalithaa’s Poes Garden residence into a memorial — Sasikala has been staying there since the death of Jayalalithaa on December 5.
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