Sasikala vs Panneerselvam: 10 latest developments in Tamil Nadu
In the aftermath of former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa's death, there have been a number of controversies surrounding the leadership of AIADMK. Here's a round up of some major developments.
J. Jayalalithaa passed away on December 5, 2016 after battling for life for 75 days at Apollo Hospital in Chennai. She was 68. A spinster, Jayalalithaa breathed her last just before midnight, over 24 hours after she suffered a cardiac arrest that derailed the halting progress she had been making on the health front. Her death plunged Tamil Nadu into grief.
After a few days of tributes and condolences, her close aide VK Sasikala took over as AIADMK General Secretary. She asserted that none other than party founder MG Ramachandran, Dravidian ideologue CN Annadurai and ‘Amma’ will be given prominence in the party. In her first formal address to functionaries after formally taking charge as party chief, she said the AIADMK will continue to be run in the same way as during the time of Amma.
However, controversy over Jayalalithaa’s death surfaced. A few days before the New Year, the Madras High Court cast doubts on the reason behind the sudden death of Jayalalithaa, and asked why the late Tamil Nadu Chief Minister's body could not be exhumed. Hearing a public interest litigation filed by an AIADMK member, the court referred to the media reports about the secrecy surrounding Jayalalithaa's health condition while she was in Apollo Hospitals, and said it too has doubts. The court said that after news reports about Jayalalithaa recovering well, there was the sudden news that she was dead.
On February 5, 2017, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister O Panneerselvam tendered his resignation from the post citing ‘personal reasons’ and setting the stage for takeover of V K Sasikala, who was elected as Legislature Party leader in the day. “Due to my personal reasons, I am tendering my resignation from the post of Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu. Kindly accept my resignation and relieve the Council of Ministers of Tamil Nadu appointed by me on December 6, 2016,” he said in a letter addressed to Governor CH Vidyasagar Rao.
The Supreme Court on February 6, 2017, was moved, seeking to restrain Sasikala from being sworn in as Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu on the grounds that she along with late Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa were accused in a disproportionate assets case. The PIL petitioner - a Chennai resident and General Secretary of NGO Satta Panchayat Iyakkam -- Senthil Kumar, contended that the verdict in the disproportionate asserts case involving Jayalalithaa, Sasikala and her two relatives V.N. Sudhakaran and Elavarasi is likely to be pronounced next week. The petitioner contended that if Sasikala was convicted and had to consequently resign then there was a possibility of riots erupting in the State. AIADMK responded by saying that the swearing-in date was yet to be finalised.
J. Jayalalithaa and VK Sasikala
Ever as uncertainty persisted over Sasikala’s swearing-in, London-based doctor Richard Beale, who treated Jayalalithaa until she died in December, ruled out any “conspiracy” behind her death. Addressing the media here, Beale said, “I am not from here. There was no conspiracy. She (Jayalalithaa) had severe infection. She had supportive care.” Beale added the issue of taking Jayalalithaa to London for treatment was also discussed but was not taken forward as she was not in favour of it and necessary medical facilities were available in Chennai. He added that the idea of exhuming Jayalalithaa's body for post-mortem was ridiculous.
The unity in AIADMK was shattered on February 7, 2017 after Panneerselvam revolted against party General Secretary V.K. Sasikala, alleging he was forced to resign as the head of government. “I was forced to resign by Sasikala,” Panneerselvam told reporters after a dramatic 40-minute meditation at the memorial of former Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa, who died in December last year. He told journalists that Sasikala made him resign as the Chief Minister, contradicting the long-time Jayalalithaa confidente's claim that it was Panneerselvam who wanted her to become the Chief Minister.
Addressing the legislators, Sasikala, who sacked Panneerselvam from the post of treasurer, launched a no-holds-barred attack on him, saying he had betrayed the party and "fully merged" with DMK which Jayalalithaa had fought all her life. She claimed she had got wind of his moves a few days ago. "Our rivals are showing their true face. We will prove our might to them. No one has the power or capacity to split or break us. I will solve the confusion arising in people's minds at the right time," she said. The opposition emerging now was proof that "certain developments our rivals don't desire are happening in the party," she said in an apparent reference to her elevation. "That is why there is this flutter. Neither AIADMK nor me will be cowed down by this," she said.
AIADMK leader Manoj Pandian stirred another controversy when he claimed that Jayalalithaa had once told him that she may be poisoned to death. “When ‘Thuglaq’ editor Cho Ramaswamy and I were Directors of Jaya TV, she (Jayalalithaa) told us she fears this group would poison her to death,” Pandian said. Cho Ramaswamy died on December 6. “I told her she does not belong to one family but belongs to over 1.5 crore members of AIADMK. The people of Tamil Nadu will protect you,” he added. (In Pic: AIADMK founding leader and former deputy speaker of the state Assembly PH Pandian along with son Manoj Pandian/ PTI)
Jayalalithaa's niece Deepa Jayakumar also made known her dislike of Sasikala by saying that "being with someone for 33 years is not a qualification to become the Chief Minister". "A lot of people are unhappy over the happenings in the AIADMK," she told the media at her house. "The people of Tamil Nadu are not happy with Sasikala becoming the Chief Minister." She said that the press conference by doctors who said there was no “conspiracy” behind Jayalalithaa’s death was “stage-managed” and that she was determined to fight elections. Jayakumar also said she would announce her plan of action on February 24 -- whether to join the AIADMK or to form a new party. On the death threats she is reportedly getting ever since she stepped into the public limelight, she said: "I won't be cowed down by threats." (In Pic: Jayalalithaa's niece Deepa Jayakumar with her husband/ PTI)