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OPS revolts, Sasikala sacks him as treasurer

Wednesday, 08 February 2017 | Kumar Chellappan | Chennai
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In what is being seen as a “political earthquake” in Tamil Nadu, AIADMK sacked Chief Minister O Panneerselvam from party treasurer post late on Tuesday night after he revolted against VK Sasikala’s elevation to the post of Chief Minister. The decision to sack Panneerselvam was taken at an emergency meeting called by Sasikala late on Tuesday night.

As the TN plunged into political turmoil, Governor C Vidyasagar Rao is reported to be staying put in Mumbai as speculation is rife about Centre’s role in resolving the crisis.

Speaking to journalists at the Jayalalithaa Memorial on Marina Beach, Panneerselvam said he wanted to share “some truths” with AIADMK cadres and declared that he was humiliated, insulted and disgraced by the family members of AIADMK general secretary VK Sasikala.

Panneerselvam said he was summoned to Veda Nilayam, the Poes Garden residence, on Sunday and was asked to submit his resignation in order to make Sasikala the Chief Minister. He said the appointment of Sasikala as party general secretary itself was against the wish of late Chief Minister and party boss Jayalalithaa.

Panneerselvam said the legislature party meeting of the AIADMK at the party headquarters on Sunday was convened without his knowledge. “I was busy attending to works related to the oil spill off Chennai coast when I got a summons from Veda Nilayam. I rushed there and saw most of the Ministers, party office-bearers and immediate family members of Sasikala in a huddle there. I was asked to make way for Sasikala as it was the decision of the party as well as the MLAs that the same person should hold both the positions, that of the general secretary and the Chief Minister. Though I questioned the urgency in changing leadership, I was told by Sasikala’s relations to fall in line in the interests of maintaining unity of the party,” said Panneerselvam. He added he had nothing to tell them and he rushed to party headquarters and tendered the resignation.

In what could be a major bombshell announcement, Panneerselvam disclosed that Sasikala was never the choice of Jayalalithaa as the party general secretary. “Five days before the passing away of Jayalalithaa, I was summoned by her to the hospital and told that in the eventuality of her demise, Madhusoodanan, the party presidium chairman, should be appointed as the general secretary and I should take over as the Chief Minister,” said Panneerselvam.

He said immediately after the passing away of Jayalalithaa, the legislature party was convened and unanimously elected him as the Chief Minister.

 “Immediately after that, Health Minister Vijayabhaskar met me and told me that TTV Dhinakaran, brother of Sasikala, had asked him to covey to me that Sasikala should be appointed as the general secretary of the party. When I told him that the decision of Amma was to appoint Madhusoodanan, he said the party could be held together only if Sasikala was elected as the general secretary. This was what happened in the general council meeting which was held on December 29,” disclosed Panneerselvam.

The Chief Minister, further stated that immediately after the appointment of Sasikala as general secretary, some of the Ministers started demanding that he should step down and Sasikala be elevated as Chief Minister. “Though I expressed my dilemma to Sasikala about the behaviour of the Ministers, she asked me to ignore it and concentrate on my work. Then there were a lot of developments like Varda cyclone which necessitated my full concentration. This was followed by Jallikaattu agitation and the drinking water crisis faced by Chennai. We sorted out these issues one by one. By the time these issues were resolved, the dye has been cast to oust me,” said Panneerselvam.

He also pointed out that Deputy Speaker of the Lok Sabha Thambidurai had issued a statement in his official letter head demanding that Sasikala should be made the Chief Minister.

To questions by some of the journalists whether he would take back the letter of resignation, Panneerselvam declared that he would do so if the majority of the MLAs asked him to take back the letter of resignation.

The major political drama started unfolding at 9 pm when he drove down to Marina Beach and sat in meditation at the site where former Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa was laid to rest. Panneerselvam, in his trade mark white dhothi and shirt with the holy ash on his forehead, sat on the ground adjoining the Jayalalithaa Memorial, with his eyes closed and without making any movements.

There were no armed guards or commandoes surrounding him when he entered the area earmarked as Jayalalithaa Memorial. The Chief Minister was not accompanied by any of the Ministers. At 9.39 pm he got up, with tears in eyes, offered a sashtang namaskar at the memorial and went around the tomb. By that time, the police had cordoned off and floodlighted the entire area.

By the time Panneerselvam came out of the memorial, thousands had gathered in Marina Beach bringing back to mind the Occupy Marina Beach agitation staged in the last week of January for permission to conduct Jallikkattu.

Uma Anand, a social activist who does not hesitate to speak her mind out, rushed to Marina Beach with her friends and associates to offer moral support to the Chief Minister. “Better you also join us in this mission. I am sure he is praying to Jayalalithaa to come back and save Tamil Nadu from the present predicament,” Anand told The Pioneer.

While all 24X7 news TV channels switched over to Marina Beach and started telecasting the live visuals of the Chief Minister from the Jayalalithaa Memorial, Jaya TV, the mouthpiece of the AIADMK blacked out the entire show.

It was a tumultuous Tuesday in Chennai as former Speaker of Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly Paul H Pandian and his son Manoj Pandian, a former member of the Rajya Sabha alleging foul play in the death of J Jayalalithaa. “Comprehensive probe should be ordered into the factors which led to the hospitalisation of Jayalalithaa. There are reports that Jayalalithaa was pulled down by someone in her residence and she lost consciousness,” charged Paul Pandian, the minority face of the AIADMK while speaking to reporters at his Anna Nagar residence in Chennai.

But the AIADMK leadership fielded KA Sengottaiyan and Panrutti Ramachandran, organising secretary and senior spokesperson of the party respectively, to counter the allegations by the Pandians. “The doctors who attended to the former Chief Minister during her hospitalisation has come out with all the relevant details about her health condition and we need not elaborate further,” said Ramachandran, described as one of the founder leaders of the party.

Sengottaiyan, rated as Jayalalithaa’s Man Friday, charged that Pandian and his family members had exploited and harnessed the good will of the former Chief Minister and damaged her reputation as well as that of the AIADMK. “At one stage, five members of his family were occupying important positions in the Government during the reign of Jayalalithaa. Pandian was a party hopper having jumped from AIADMK to the DMK and back to the AIADMK to suit his convenience,” said Sengottaiyan.

Meanwhile, Deepa Jayakumar, niece of Jayalalithaa, too joined the chorus of those opposed to Sasikala. “Sasikala is not the person people voted for. The people of Tamil Nadu know it well,” said Deepa, who also announced her intention to contest the election.

There is resentment among a section of the people as suspense over Sasikala’s swearing-in continued. Governor C Vidyasagar Rao is out of Chennai and there was no official word from Raj Bhavan even at the time of going to press late on Tuesday night about the date and time of the swearing-in.

 
 
 
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