Carrying letter of support from MLAs, Sasikala loyalist stakes claim to form govt. Game over for Panneerselvam?
Tamil Nadu PWD Minister Edapadi Palanisamy, a staunch supporter of AIADMK general secretary VK Sasikala, met Governor C Vidyasagar Rao on Tuesday and staked his claim to form the government.
This followed Sasikala’s conviction in the disproportionate assets case by the Supreme Court, disqualifying her from holding a public office for six years.
Palanisamy told reporters outside the Golden Bay Resorts, where MLAs loyal to Sasikala are holed up, that he had been unanimously elected leader of the AIADMK Legislature Party.
Accompanied by senior party functionaries KA Sengottayan and D Jayakumar, Palanisamy met the governor and gave him a letter of support from the MLAs. The meeting lasted 10 minutes.
On behalf of the rival claimant to the chief ministership, O Panneerselvam, senior minister K Pandiarajan went to the resort to meet the MLAs but was barred by the police, who have imposed prohibitory orders in the Kuvathur village.
Panneerselvam later sought a meeting with the governor, reiterating that he would prove his majority on the floor of the assembly, where MLAs would be able to vote freely.
When Sasikala staked claim to form the government, on the strength of her election as the the legislature party leader, the governor preferred to wait for the SC verdict in the assets case.
Now that the verdict is out and Sasikala’s supporter Palanisamy claims the support of a majority of the MLAs, the governor has to take a decision in a day or two.
Although Panneerselvam says he is very much in the reckoning, the governor is expected to give a chance to Palanisamy to end to the political uncertainty, and ask him to face a floor test.
Having accepted Panneerselvam’s resignation as chief minister – even if he claims to have been forced to quit by Sasikala – there's no way the governor can reinstate him.
Moreover, Panneerselvam’s revolt hasn't found traction even after Sasikala’s conviction in the corruption case. As for now, only a handful of MLAs have crossed over to his camp.
Therefore, the governor has no option but to call Palanisamy to form the government.
Whether the MLAs are staying in that resort of their own free will or are in captivity; whether Palanisamy or the Sasikala-appointed treasurer of the party Dindigal Srinivsan can call the legislature party meeting are questions that the governor cannot be go into.
If Palanisamy fails the floor test, the governor can find out if an alternative ministry is possible.
Panneerselvam may be given a chance only if the AIADMK splits and he gets the support of a sizable chunk of the legislators, for that would enable him to form the government with the support of 90 DMK members.
Palanisamy, the PWD minister in the current government, hails from Salem, which forms part of the Edapadi constituency that he has represented almost continuously since 1989. When J Jayalalithaa aligned with the BJP in 1998 and supported the second Atal Bihari Vajpayee government, Palanisamy got elected to the Lok Sabha. After Jaya pulled down the Vajpayee government in 1999, he returned to the assembly. He was a staunch loyalist of Jayalalithaa.
Panneerselvam has the people’s support, but he lacks numbers as ultimately only the MLAs matter.
Kongu Nadu Makkal Katchi general secretary ES Easwaran claims both Palanisamy and Panneerselvam, as PWD ministers, were involved in the multi-crore rupee illegal sand mining scam in Tamil Nadu. Both were close to sand miner Shekhar Reddy, who was recently arrested and from whose house Rs 570 crore was recovered.
In fact, the AIADMK as a whole stands condemned now as the Supreme Court judgment has held both Jayalalithaa and Sasikala guilty of corrupt practices. Not least because, as DMK spokesperson Man Sundaram points out, both Panneerselvam and Palanisamy factions swear by Jaya's legacy.