Sasikala vs O Panneerselvam: Raj Bhavan keeps both waiting

The Raj Bhavan clarification by the Principal Secretary to Governor came after the draft of a purported report by Rao was out on social media and flashed by some TV channels.

Written by Arun Janardhanan | Chennai | Updated: February 11, 2017 9:07:21 am
O Panneerselvam at his residence in Chennai on Friday. PTI O Panneerselvam at his residence in Chennai on Friday. PTI

A day after AIADMK general secretary V K Sasikala staked claim to form the government, Raj Bhavan delayed its decision, plunging the state into uncertainty and prompting speculation around the possibility of Central rule. On Friday, Governor C Vidyasagar Rao was said to be still weighing his options and his office said “he has not sent any report either to the Ministry of Home Affairs or to the President of India” as was being reported by some in the media.

The Raj Bhavan clarification by the Principal Secretary to Governor came after the draft of a purported report by Rao was out on social media and flashed by some TV channels. The so-called draft mentioned the ruling expected
any day from the Supreme Court on the disproportionate assets case against Sasikala, and also referred to doubts on whether she would be able to contest to get herself elected to the Assembly within six months — Sasikala is not an MLA.

The Governor, this note stated, was bound by the Constitution to wait for a few days so that a clear picture emerges for him to discharge his duties. On Friday, the Governor met Chief Secretary Girija Vaidyanathan, DGP T K Rajendran and Chennai City police commissioner S George. Sasikala faces a rebellion being led by caretaker Chief Minister O Panneerselvam who claims to have been forced out of office.

Leaders in the Sasikala camp maintain that they will soon get a call from Raj Bhavan. “We have the majority. All MLAs have given their consent, the documents are before him (Governor). Why should there be other ideas then,” one of the leaders said.

Another from her camp said two plans have been readied — one, Sasikala leads the government; two, in case of an adverse court ruling against her, senior leader Edappadi Palanisami will be Chief Minister. It is becoming increasingly clear that though there is support among the cadres for Panneerselvam, not many MLAs are with him. His camp is awaiting a Raj Bhavan decision. Sources said the Governor’s office has already been apprised about the nature of petitions and allegations against the Sasikala camp.

BJP national secretary H Raja echoed the sentiment of the Panneerselvam faction. “With Panneerselvam’s revelation that he was forced to resign, his resignation itself has now come under cloud. Then what about the so-called unanimous election of Sasikala as the legislature party leader? Already some six-eight MLAs have come out of her camp. Taking these into consideration, the Governor has to be satisfied about her majority claim. The new evidences are shocking, so there is a crisis,” he said.

DMK working president and Leader of Opposition M K Stalin met the Governor Friday and submitted a representation in which he said the state administration cannot be allowed to “drift towards a dangerous destination” as it could lead to its complete breakdown. “We request the Governor to look into the developing situation closely and seek an early intervention to ensure a democratically and Constitutionally valid government in place without further loss of time through a free-and-fair floor test,” Stalin said.

The floor test, he said, should be in “total conformity with the Constitutional provisions” and in accordance with the parameters laid down by the Supreme Court in the S R Bommai case. Meanwhile, Sasikala expelled AIADMK presidium chairman E Madhusudanan, a day after he expressed solidarity with Panneerselvam. He was shown the door an hour after he said he had sent a memorandum to the Election Commission, seeking to declare as invalid the election of Sasikala as party chief.

Sasikala’s statement said Madhusudanan has been removed from the primary membership of the party for violating the party principles and for bringing disrepute to the party. Madhusudhanan was replaced by former minister and Gobichettipalayam MLA K A Sengottaiyan.

Responding to the action, Madhusudhanan said under laws framed by party founder M G Ramachandran, a general secretary can be elected only by the party cadre. “That makes Sasikala’s election null and void. I expelled her from the party before she expelled me,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Madras High Court sought the state government’s response to allegations that AIADMK MLAs were being illegally detained in a resort near Chennai and 20 of them were on a fast. Referring to claims by the counsel for habeas corpus petitioners that the 20 MLAs were on a fast protesting their illegal detention, a division bench of Justices C T Selvam and T Mathivanan said, if true, it was a matter of serious concern, but added the court cannot act on mere submissions of counsel.

Meanwhile, S Ramesh, who works at late Cho Ramasamy’s Thuglak magazine, said the AIADMK is already reduced to its half size after Jayalalithaa’s death. Ramesh, an old friend of Panneerselvam who paid a visit to his residence in the wake of latest developments, said it was just a courtesy visit. He said the major beneficiary of a crisis in AIADMK would be DMK. “But a section of cadres will go to BJP as well. If they (BJP) work hard, BJP’s vote share will increase in Tamil Nadu. Like the focus in Uttar Pradesh and other states, (Narendra) Modi should focus on Tamil Nadu as well,” he said.

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