Things on political landscape in Tamil Nadu have changed too fast within a few hours starting last evening. The caretaker Chief Minister Panneerselvam and newly elected General Secretary of AIADMK Sasikala are at loggerheads over who controls the party and the post of Chief Minister.
For those who might have missed all the drama, here is a quick summary:
What was the political situation after Jayalalitha’s death?
Until her death, Jayalalithaa was the Tamil Nadu CM and the General Secretary of the AIADMK, the post she had held since 1989. On 5th December 2016, Panneerselvam was sworn in as the CM following Jaya’s death, and speculations raged over who would be made the next party GS. All this while, there were talks about how the real mover and shaker of the party was eventually going to be Sasikala.
What happened to the party General Secretary post?
After weeks of speculations and supposed urging by party cadre, Sasikala was unanimously elected as the party’s General Secretary on 29th December 2016.
What happened afterwards?
With Sasikala becoming General Secretary, it was speculated if she would want to control the party and the government from behind the scenes, or will play the role that Jayalalithaa had played i.e. lead from the front.
It appears that she decided to lead from the front. On Sunday, Panneerselvam resigned from his post citing personal reasons:
This was followed by Sasikala being unanimously elected the leader of the AIADMK legislature party, paving the way for her to become the new Tamil Nadu CM.
So what went wrong?
Panneerselvam shocked everyone last night after claiming that Sasikala had forced him to resign and his actions were not voluntary. He announced this after he had meditated at Jayalalitha’s burial site for about 40 min and claimed that he was told to speak up by the soul of Jayalalitha.
He also said that he came to know that there was a meeting of the MLAs and that he didn’t have prior info. He also said he would take back his resignation if the people and members of his party wished so.
What is the current situation?
Due to this unexpected revolt by Panneerselvam, he has been removed as the party’s treasurer, a post he has held for a decade. Now he has made a sensational claim that he wasn’t allowed to meet Jayalalithaa even once while she was in the hospital. He further proceeded to announce his intention to order a probe commission that would investigate the doubts over Jaya’s health.
Currently most of the MLAs look like standing with Sasikala and the only prominent leaders who arrived at Panneerselvam’s house were former Rajya Sabha MP V Maitreyan and Solavandan MLA K Manickam. However, on ground, support for Panneerselvam appears growing.
Now what is the way forward?
Ball is in Governor’s court. Tamil Nadu Governor Vidyasagar Rao had accepted Panneerselvam’s resignation but asked him to continue as the caretaker CM. However, with Panneerselvam announcing his intention to withdraw his resignation, Governor’s role has become important. Vidyasagar Rao, though, doesn’t seem to be in a hurry to settle matters as he is not in the state currently.
Some of the options in front of the Governor include asking Panneerselvam to go for a floor test, date of which would be crucial as to how much time Panneerselvam has to get MLAs in his support. Or he can simply administer oath to Sasikala as the new CM. However, things could get further complicated if Sasikala takes oath as CM and ends up getting convicted in the disproportionate assets case, which will be heard next week.
Why does Sasikala want to come into the forefront and not enjoy power without responsibility?
It appears that Panneerselvam wasn’t turning out to be the docile yes-man everyone made him out to be. Just 20 days after assuming the post of CM, he was asserting his authority that included blocking appointment of an IAS officer favoured by Sasikala.
Panneerselvam was also gaining popularity due to his humble nature and cooperation with the opposition and the centre. He showed decisiveness when he visited the victims of the Vardah cyclone and got a state law to legalise Jallikattu with the Centre’s help. Most probably Sasikala saw these as signs of him growing as a leader.