Sasikala, or Panneerselvam - TN political crisis far from over

Chennai: Television channels on Friday night reported that Governor C. Vidyasagar Rao had ruled out AIADMK General Secretary V.K. Sasikala for chief ministership in a report to the Union Home Ministry, but the Governor's House denied the report, adding to the continuing political uncertainity gripping the state since the past four days.

According the India Today news channel and several Tamil channels, the Governor in a report to the Union Home Ministry cited the pending disproportionate assets (DA) case against Sasikala as the reason for her not being qualified to stake the claim.

The channel, which said it has a copy of the report sent by the Governor, reported that he also took note of the PILs against Sasikala, on which verdict was pending.

The PILs have been filed challenging her elevation as the Chief Minister, since "she has not been the General Secretary for a continuous period of five years", as mandated by the party's constitution. Political uncertainty continued in Tamil Nadu for the fourth consecutive day on Friday,

However, the Governor's House said in a statement that he had "not sent any report either to the Ministry of Home Affaris or to the President of India, as reported in some of the media".

Earlier in the day, Sasikala dismissed E. Madhusudanan -- a close aide of late Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa -- from the party for backing O. Panneerselvam for the Chief Minister's post, saying he had violated the party's principles and brought disrepute to it.

Madhusudanan told reporters: "As per the party by-law, a person can become General Secretary of AIADMK only if he/she is a member for a continuous period of five years." 

Sasikala was not a member of the party for a continuous five years and hence not qualified to be the General Secretary, he said.

Sasikala was elected as the AIADMK General Secretary following the death of Jayalalithaa in December last year and elected leader of the legislature party on February 5.

Panneerselvam revolted against the party General Secretary on Tuesday night, alleging that he was forced to resign as the Chief Minister to pave the way for Sasikala to occupy that chair.

But the supporters of Sasikala continued attacking Panneerselvam, charging him with betraying the party.

Former Union Minister E. Ponnusamy on Friday also chose to side with Panneerselvam, thus adding strength to the beleaguered acting Chief Minister's camp. It is believed that Madhusudanan and Ponnusamy will help garner support of their loyals for Pannerselvam.

Meanwhile, AIAMDK MLAs backing the General Secretary, who have been taken to a beach resort to ensure they are not influenced by the rival camp, told the media outside the resort that they were not being held hostage.

Their "assurance" came in the wake of filing of several habeas corpus petitions in the Madras High Court, stating they were being held hostage. "MLAs cannot be kept hostage. Sasikala is treating us like how (late Chief Minister J.) Jayalalithaa treated us," said one of them.

The high court adjourned to February 12 its hearing on the habeas corpus petitions filed by two advocates.

Amid the developments unfolding one after the other in the Tamil Nadu capital Chennai, a Panneerselvam loyal also moved the Supreme Court seeking an urgent hearing of a plea for direction against Sasikala being sworn-in as the Chief Minister, but the apex court declined to oblige.

The petitioner contended that Sasikala should not be sworn-in as the verdict on the Karnataka government's plea challenging her acquittal in a disproportionate assets case was awaited.

A top court bench said "sorry, declined" as the petitioner urged the bench to accord the plea an urgent hearing. The court is expected to pronounce its verdict on the Karnataka government's appeal next week.

The main opposition DMK has urged Governor Rao to intervene and ensure a government through a fair floor test.

The party's Working President M.K Stalin met Rao on Friday and submitted a representation on behalf of the DMK expressing concern over the "constitutional vacuum" in the state with the Chief Minister relegated to the side due to infighting in the ruling party.

IANS