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Revolt in ruling AIADMK may trigger president rule
'Amma's fortress crumbles so soon
By S. Sethuraman
Tamil Nadu's Political Crisis, with ruling AIADMK entangled in leadership battle between incumbent Mr Panneerselvam and Ms. V K Sasikala, till lately a close aide of "Amma" Jayalalithaa, deepened further as the State keenly awaited return of Acting Governor Mr Vidyasagar Rao, to adjudge the situation and make the next move.

The Governor had earlier accepted the resignation of Chief Minister Mr O P Panneerselvam submitted "for personal reasons", but asked him to continue pending alternative arrangements. Mr Panneerselvam had since raised a banner of revolt against the manner of Ms. V K Sasikala, promoting herself for her election as leader to head the Government. In retaliation Ms. Sasikala, as General Secretary, termed Mr Panneerselvam a "traitor who betrayed AIADMK".

Calling hurriedly the MLAs to party headquarters, she spoke to them and later a majority of them were whisked away to secret location to prevent desertions in her ranks.

Adding to her fury, Mr. Panneerselvam has announced as head of caretaker government that he would order an inquiry headed by a Supreme Court Judge into the treatment and death of his mentor, the late Ms. Jayalalithaa, on Dec.5 last year, in view of widespread public concerns and doubts about the treatment till her end.

Mr Panneerselvam has also claimed he has support of several of his partymen in the Assembly but the rival claims would have to be tested out. Ms. Sasikala expects the Governor to first call her on the basis of letter sent to him by her supporters on her election as party leader..

Governor Mr Vidya Sagar Rao was expected to land by evening of February 9. In all probability, he may defer any decision till the Supreme Court delivers its verdict in the Jaya-Sasikala Disproportionate Assets Case of 1996, in the week beginning February 13. The prospect of Ms. Sasikala's swearing in would therefore, depend on her acquittal in the case.

The power rivalry has destabilised a strong AIADMK Government within three months of the passing away of its outstanding leader and "Amma" to the masses, Ms. Jayalalithaa, with a rare record of successive electoral wins and welfare orientation to Tamil Nadu's development since 2011.

The crisis erupted after Ms. V K Sasikala, close aide of the late Chief Minister, first named General Secretary of the Party, made no secret of her ambition to succeed "Amma" herself in so short a time. A section of AIADMK leaders and some of the Ministers were also supportive of Ms. Sasikala heading the Government leadership.

Mr Panneerselvam said his resignation was under duress, after having been subjected to humiliations and insults by his own Ministers, who were supportive of Ms. Sasikala. A total loyalist of late Chief Minister, Mr Panneerselvam went to her Memorial on the Marina at night on February 7 to pay homage to her. Later. he told a startled media of how he had had to resign under duress having been subjected to continuous pressures and insults by his own colleagues ..

Reacting to the revolt of the Chief Minister, Ms. Sasikala deprived him of the post of Treasurer. But Mr. Panneerselvam has asked the Bank to freeze the party account which cannot be operated by anyone without his written consent. Ms. Sasikala has only been "appointed" General Secretary of AIADMK and her election to the post is yet to take place as per the party constitution...

For his part, Mr Panneerselvam maintained that he could withdraw his resignation if only it was so desired by the party cadres and the people. The social media was instantly abuzz with warm support to the Chief Minister as he battles his way drawing growing support of both leading public figures also from the party cadres, MLAs and MPs.

The Governor on return from Mumbai is likely to call MLAs to sound them on developments so far and later also give a hearing to Mr. Panneerselvam. If the latter wants to withdraw the resignation, he would be required to establish the requisite support. On the other hand, AIADMK partymen assert the Governor is bound first to call Ms. Sasikala on the basis of letter sent on her behalf.

In the prevailing situation, with the apex court decision awaited and the state assembly having been adjourned sine die, the Governor will need some time to chart the next course of action. It is only after exhausting all possibilities that the Governor could come up with his advice.

The options before him are to allow Mr. Panneerselvam to withdraw his resignation, though accepted earlier, and ask him to prove majority in the Assembly, or take the letter of support for Ms. Sasikala and direct her to produce proofs for majority for her and if necessary call for a parade of all supporting MLAs in Raj Bhavan.

An option not ruled out altogether is for a period of suspended animation of the State Assembly and enforcing President's rule. This would be revoked once the political situation gets stabilised for normal functioning of the elected Government.

None of the political parties including DMK, the major opposition with89 members in the 234-member Assembly, favours fresh elections. The DMK leader MR M K Stalin, who had already questioned the legitimacy of a member of household of late Chief Minister staking claim for leadership, has urged the Governor to ensure that a "functional Government" taking its place as early as possible.

Mr. Panneerselvam has been gaining support from wider sections of the public for the way he has risen as an administrator in the difficult aftermath of the passing away of Ms. Jayalalithaa and tackling a series of natural disasters and solving the 'Jallikattu" agitation.

The evolving developments in Tamil Nadu look like "made-to-order" for BJP which has been frantically trying to make its presence felt in Tamil Nadu since Mr Modi rode to power in 2014. Prime Minister Modi had been friendly and helpful to the Chief Minister when he took Tamil Nadu's immediate problems to New Delhi and got some sorted out, especially Centre's concurrence for a state law permitting 'Jallikattu' game now taking place in parts of Tamil Nadu.

AIADMK was built up by charismatic Jayalalithaa after the MGR era and had effectively countered the challenge of the DMK led by Mr M Karunanidhi. Both Dravidian majors have held power alternately since 1967 sidelining all other national and state parties. The current crisis in AIADMK, now deprived of strong leadership, could well mark the beginning of the end of domination of Dravidian rule in Tamil Nadu.

—(IPA Service)

News Updated at : Friday, February 10, 2017
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