While Madras High Court, hearing a petition alleging that nearly 120 AIADMK MLAs were confined at a resort for the last two days by the V K Sasikala faction and some of them had refused top eat in protest, on Friday called it “serious”, two of those “confined” MLAs said they were neither hostages nor voluntary guests. “Circumstances”, the two said, had forced them to stay “aloof for a few days”. Tamil Nadu’s caretaker Chief Minister O Panneerselvam has claimed that the MLAs were taken in “custody” and kept as “hostages” at a beach resort in Kuvathur, about 80 km south of Chennai.
The two AIADMK MLAs, who spoke with The Indian Express on conditions of anonymity, said they have no idea how long they have to stay at the guesthouse, although both said they were enjoying their stay. Asked specifically whether they are locked up, the senior of the two legislators said, “Not exactly…. (But it is) a real break. I am a second-term MLA, and I have been to many five-star hotels. But this is a unique experience…. We are told that some of us may be shifted to the MLA hostel by (Friday) evening, as there were questions from the court…actually life is not so boring here.”
He said, “It is not our choice but we have to do it (stay at the resort). If we join OPS (Panneerselvam), we will lose our MLA posts. We will stand together and retain this government.” Admitting that some ministers still sympathise with Panneerselvam, he asked, “But who will take (what looks like) a suicidal step of sacrificing ministerial post?”
“Playing cards and watching TV news” are their most common form of common entertainment, both MLAs said. “I never knew OPS could give 10 interviews and attend so many press meets in a single day,” the senior MLA said. “OPS has become the Nagaraja Chozhan in a single day,” he added, referring to actor Sathyaraj’s character in the movie ‘Amaidhi Padai’ (1994), in which a street wanderer becomes the CM. Stating that his “enjoyment” is limited to a variety of food, liquor and TV news, the senior MLA said, “We can also go for massage and swimming. Some had gone; I did not.”
The second MLA — a first-time legislator in his mid-40s — said Panneerselvam has come out as an honest man following his prayer at Jayalalithaa’s memorial on Marina beach and his press meets. “But we are clueless. We were told to come to AIADMK office for a meeting, and when it got over, we were shepherded to buses parked outside,” he said. The “abduction” was with prior notice, he said. “There were four buses — MLAs on three, and one bus carried (our) luggage. All of us have come with spare clothes to spend a few days here.”
Both MLAs said they haven’t heard reports of a few MLAs refusing food. They also said there are no mobile jammers, although their cellphones are with ministers, “who are in-charge of each group of five or eight MLAs”. The senior of the two legislators said Social Welfare minister V Saroja is in charge of all women MLAs and Health minister C Vijayabaskar is monitoring the situation at the resort.