Tamil Nadu Political Crisis Continues as Panneerselvam Gains Support

While O. Panneerselvan says V.K. Sasikala is keeping MLAs 'hostage', reports say she may go on hunger strike if the governor does not invite her to take the oath of office soon.

It has now been more a week since the political crisis over who will be chief minister of Tamil Nadu began. V.K. Sasikala took over as general secretary of the AIADMK and announced that she was going to become chief minister, a claim that current chief minister O. Panneerselvam later said he did not stand behind. Much to Sasikala’s chagrin, governor Vidyasagar Rao is yet to call her to take an oath of office, with speculations that he is waiting for the Supreme Court judgment on the disproportionate assets case. In the mean time, MLAs are defecting to join the Panneerselvam camp.

By Sunday (February 12) evening, a total of seven MLAs and up to 11 MPs had declared their support for Panneerselvam. Sasikala responded by saying that it is tough for women in politics, which she during Jayalalithaa’s time in politics too, and asserted that the MLAs were with her, according to Firstpost. Sasikala claims to have the support of 127 MLAs.

There have been allegations that Sasikala is keeping MLAs ‘hostage’ at the Golden Bay resort near Mahabalipuram so that they do not switch sides. MLAs have been at the resort since last Wednesday. Sasikala has denied these allegations, saying the MLAs are free to do whatever they want. She held a meeting with the MLAs on Sunday, according to Firstpost. For the time since the MLAs have been there, the media was allowed in on Monday.

“Look at these people. How free they are and this proves all the false claims being made by those opposing us. They are living here like good family members. They were saying MLAs were kept in detention. But see for yourselves, how free they are,” Hindustan Times quoted Sasikala as saying. She also alleged that her MLAs and their families were being threatened.

Panneerselvam, on the other hand, insisted that he was getting reports that MLAs were kept at the resort against their will. “Even today many party MLAs are contacting me and telling, for each MLA there are four goons sitting. Tamils across the globe are also clear that Sasikala should never become the chief minister,” Firstpost quoted him as saying.

On Monday morning, a case was filed against AIADMK legislator V.P. Kalairajan for allegedly sending death threats to the chief minister.

Reports said that Panneerselvam will be visiting the state secretariat for the first time since his resignation on Monday, while Sasikala may be headed for another meeting with her MLAs at the resort. Tamil Nadu chief secretary Girija Vaidyanathan and the police commissioner met at the secretariat in the morning to discuss the law and order situation in the state.

According to Firspost, Sasikala may go on hunger strike if Rao does not call her to take office soon.

Meanwhile, Union minister M. Venkaiah Naidu has defended the governor’s decision to bide his time. Motives cannot be attributed to governor C.H. Vidyasagar Rao, Naidu said according to NDTV, as he is discharging his duties in a “non-partisan manner”. “When you are writing to the governor, nobody should attribute motives to him. He is behaving in the most non-partisan manner and doing his duty,” he said. In a remark that has been seen as pro-Panneerselvam, he added, “There is no vacancy (on the post of chief minister) to be filled because there already is a government which is headed by a chief minister.”

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