In a dramatic development, AIADMK General Secretary VK Sasikala alleged that the main opposition DMK was behind O Panneerselvam’s revolt against her and asserted that all the party MLAs were with her and hence there is “no problem” in her becoming the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister.
“All the MLAs are there like a single family, so there is no problem,” she told reporters at a crowded press meet.
This was Sasikala’s very first interaction with journalists, albeit at an impromptu press meet in front of her residence at around 1.15 AM.
Though she had addressed party leaders and MLAs after taking over as party chief in December last, this was her first interaction with journalists.
Asked if Panneerselvam, who was removed from the post of party treasurer, would also be removed from AIADMK’s primary membership, she asserted, “for sure, we will do it.”
When asked if she thought that her swearing-in was being delayed by Governor Ch Vidyasagar Rao, though she has been elected leader of the legislature party, she shot back “I feel the same what you feel.”
In reply to another question, she said “DMK is behind Panneerselvam…the reason is that in the recent Assembly session the Chief Minister and Leader of Opposition were looking at each other and laughing together.”
She denied Panneerselvam’s charge that he was coerced to resign, saying “he was saying what he was told.”
Sasikala waved the AIADMK two leaves symbol to party supporters gathered outside the residence, smiled, quickly completed the press meet and went back inside.
Earlier, Stalin said Panneerselvam’s statement that he was coerced to quit was shocking and added that his party may seek convening of the Assembly.
“In Tamil Nadu, a situation of a virtual absence of government has arisen, that Sasikala not at all allow Panneerselvam to function has become very clear from the utterances of the Chief Minister,” Stalin said.
BJP leader H Raja said the Governor has many options now.
“He can check if the signatures affixed by MLAs voicing support for Sasikala was out of their own volition.”
He also said that the legality of Panneerselvam’s resignation has come under a cloud.
Former Union minister and PMK leader Anbumani Ramadoss tweeted “Request TN Governor to hear each and every MLA’s consensus individually before appointing the next CM of TN.
Earlier in the night, in a quick retaliation after he raised a banner of revolt against her, Sasikala sacked Panneerselvam from the top party post of treasurer.
She replaced Panneerselvam with Dindigul C Srinivasan, who is also the Forest Minister and is seen number two in the hierarchy in the Council of Ministers.
The decision to remove Panneerselvam comes after a top level meeting Sasikala chaired at the Poes Garden residence, in which some sitting ministers and a section of senior functionaries participated.
In a brief statement, Sasikala said “O Panneerselvam is being relieved from the post of AIADMK treasurer and Dindigul C Srinivasan is appointed to that post. Party cadres should extend their full cooperation to Srinivasan.”
Meanwhile, supporters continued to throng the Greams Road official residence of Chief Minister Panneerselvam. Many broke into a jig and thanked him for “listening to his conscience and heeding to the call of the soul of Amma.”
Party sources said that Panneerselvam would soon come out with a comprehensive plan of action that he will pursue.
Meanwhile, AIADMK leader and Lok Sabha Deputy Speaker M Thambidurai dismissed Panneerselvam’s claim that he was forced to resign as Chief Minister and insisted party chief V K Sasikala would become the Chief Minister as all the legislators were behind ‘Chinnamma’.
Emerging from the Poes Garden residence of Sasikala, he asked “do you believe he was coerced, forced to resign?” and dismissed Panneerselvam’s claims, saying “do we need such a Chief Minister?”
“All the MLAs are united…All the legislators are inside (pointing to the Poes Garden residence),” he said, adding in Tamil Nadu, AIADMK will continue its rule for the remaining four-and-a-half years.
He said “be it (the upcoming) civic poll or Parliamentary elections, we will win all under the leadership of Chinnamma.”
The AIADMK propaganda secretary also claimed “Panneerselvam is instable.”
State minister C Ve Shanmugam called Panneerselvam “a betrayer”.
Earlier tonight, Panneerselvam had raised the banner of revolt against Sasikala, saying he was forced to resign from his post and asserted that only a person desired by both the people and cadres should succeed him in the government and take charge of the party.
Soon after breaking a 40-minute long meditation in front of the burial site of late Jayalalithaa at Marina beach here, close to 10 PM, he said he was insulted and forced to resign to pave the way for elevation of Sasikala as Chief Minister.
Panneerselvam said he was told he should quit as CM to protect the party’s discipline and that if he did not do so, it would be a violation of party discipline.
No answer was forthcoming to his query to the need for him to resign, he said, adding he was not even given a chance to go to Jayalalithaa’s burial site and told he could do so later.
He had also said that if the people and party cadres so wished, he might withdraw his resignation.
Panneerselvam recalled the events since hospitalisation of Jayalalithaa, saying he was asked by Sasikala to take over as CM when Amma’s health deteriorated and when she was on the verge of passing away. He had initially refused, but accepted it when they insisted that he take over the post.
He also claimed he was “unaware” of convening of Sunday’s AIADMK legislature party meeting, which elected Sasikala as the leader.
(With PTI inputs)