CHENNAI: Complicating the matters further for the AIADMK leadership, caretaker Chief Minister O Panneerselvam raised a surprise banner of revolt, alleging that he was forced to resign to pave way for party general secretary VK Sasikala’s to assume power. He added that he would continue as the Chief Minister if the people and party cadre wanted him to.
“Someone chosen by the cadre should be the general secretary; one acceptable to the people should be the Chief Minister. It need not be me… I am prepared to stand alone and fight for this, I am ready for it,” he said. It was an unexpected turn of events when Panneerselvam landed unannounced at Jaya’s memorial at 8.50 pm on Tuesday, where he sat on silent samadhi prayer. There was tension building up by the minute as he sat motionless for 50 long minutes before breaking his silence – for the first time ever.
Explaining what transpired since Jayalalithaa’s last days, till the day he resigned, Panneerselvam said he felt humiliated when his own Cabinet members like RB Udhayakumar and ‘Sellur’ K Raju wanted Sasikala to be the Chief Minister. “If it were personal insults, I would have taken it on my stride. However, this insulted the position and the party itself. I was hurt,” he said.
Recalling the developments on Sunday, when Sasikala was chosen as the next Chief Minister, Panneerselvam said he went to her Poes Garden residence where all ministers were present. “They said arrangements were on to elect her as the CM. I asked them what the necessity was to do so at this moment… I did not even know about the meeting,” he said. The leaders allegedly pleaded with him to accept the demand. “Because of their pressure, I was forced to resign.”
He recalled the efforts taken by his government, including the relief work during Cyclone Vardah, the initiative to meet Andhra Pradesh CM N Chandrababu Naidu to seek drinking water for Chennai, and finally the handling of the jallikattu protests. “This irked [Sasikala] family.”
It is not yet clear how many party MLAs are with Panneerselvam, though his rebellion has attracted cadres and many former leaders who gathered at his residence late into the night. However, it is the party machinery that decides, and that is at present with Sasikala.
Immediately after Panneerselvam’s shock public revolt, ministers and many MLAs rushed to Poes Garden. Soon, the announcement came that he was removed from the party treasurer post. This development has given rise to speculation that the Centre-ruling BJP has a role to play in this episode. That Governor Ch Vidyasagar Rao, who accepted Panneerselvam’s resignation, has not yet chosen to install Sasikala, is seen as the clearest indicator for this.
Congress leaders Abhishek Manu Singhvi and Randeep S Surjewala have already taken to social media to allege a BJP hand in the trouble. BJP leader Subramanian Swamy, who had maintained that Sasikala had to be sworn-in as per Constitutional provisions, commented that no stable government is possible in the event of an infighting.
The next episode on this drama will be clear only after the governor arrives in Chennai. There are rumours that Governor Rao might reach here on Wednesday, though it has not been confirmed yet.