Sasikala stakes claim to form govt, suspense over swearing-in continues

Chennai: Suspense continued tonight over whether V. K. Sasikala will be sworn in as Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu after she staked claim to form the government at a meeting with Governor C. Vidyasagar Rao, who has not yet given any indication as to what course of action he will take.

Hours after caretaker Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam visited Rao, Sasikala called on the Governor at Raj Bhavan and gave him the letter staking claim to form government and containing the names of supporting MLAs who elected her as AIADMK Legislature Party leader on Sunday. She also submitted individual letters of support furnished by AIADMK MLAs.

Though there was no immediate word on what the Governor proposed to do, some reports suggested he wanted to obtain further legal opinion before taking any action.

Sasikala’s meeting with the Governor lasted about 40 minutes.
Earlier, At 5:00 p.m., Panneerselvam had called on Rao and after a brief meeting told reporters that “good things will happen and dharma will triumph.”

He currently has the support of leaders like former Ministers K.P. Munusamy, Natham R. Viswanathan, Rajya Sabha MP V. Maithreyan and a few sitting MLAs, besides AIADMK Presidium Chairman E Madusudanan, who switched sides and is now backing Panneerselvam.

Before going to stake claim, Sasikala, attired in her signature green saree, visited the memorial of late Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa along with hundreds of supporters, including some senior Ministers. Sasikala placed at the memorial a big envelope believed to be containing the list of MLAs who have endorsed her candidature for the top post.

She offered rose petals and knelt down at the memorial where Jayalalithaa has been buried.

AIADMK has claimed 131 MLAs had attended a meeting called by her yesterday in the wake of a rebellion by Panneerselvam.

Before Panneerselvam revolted against Sasikala claiming he was forced to resign, he had submitted his resignation to the Governor on February 6 and was asked to continue in office till alternative arrangements were made.

Pannerselvam has been maintaining that he was prepared to reconsider his resignation if people and the party cadres so desired. Though Sasikala appears to have the backing of an overwhelming majority of MLAs, public support for Panneerselvam was reported to have grown following his rebellion.

Governor Rao, who stayed put in Mumbai even after Sasikala’s election as AIADMK legislature party leader, arrived here in the afternoon. Rao, the Governor of Maharashtra, holds additional charge of Tamil Nadu.

Panneerselvam has been claiming he has the support of a majority of party MLAs and that he would prove his strength on the floor of the house, but not disclosed the number of AIADMK legislators supporting him.

Amid the continuing fight over Jayalalithaa’s legacy and chief minister’s chair, Panneerselvam accused Sasikala of having “betrayed” the late leader and demanded that her Poes Garden residence currently occupied by the AIADMK general secretary be declared a memorial.

By accommodating persons who were expelled in 2011 by Jayalalithaa at the ‘Veda Nilayam’ Poes Garden residence, Sasikala had “betrayed” Amma, he said, hitting out at Sasikala for calling him a “betrayer.”

He said Jayalalithaa’s residence where Sasikala continues to stay should be declared a memorial. Her personal articles should be protected, Panneerselvam said. “This is the first step of the struggle to declare it a memorial,” he said.

Addressing his supporters while welcoming AIADMK presidium chairman E Madusudanan, who is against Sasikala’s elevation as Chief Minister, Panneerselvam claimed she had given a “false declaration that she had not even thought of betraying Amma,” in an apology letter she had purportedly written to Jayalalithaa while being readmitted to the party after being expelled.

“Sasikala is saying that I have betrayed. Who has betrayed? Her letter to Amma in 2012 will say who has betrayed (Amma and the party),” he said.

Reading out the letter in front of his supporters, he claimed Sasikala had herself acknowledged that “what her relatives and friends had done was unpardonable” and a “blatant betrayal”, and went on to ask if by accommodating them in the late CM’s house she had not “committed betrayal”.

“People will teach a lesson to Sasikala,” he said.
Panneerselvam claimed that Sasikala had then said she did not want to involve herself in public life, nor was she interested in power or positions. However, now she was “enacting drama and trying to usurp power,” he alleged.

“I agreed to become Chief Minister after Amma’s passing away considering party interests,” he said.

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