February 13, 2017 8:40:23 pm
The lingering political drama in Tamil Nadu may see a denouement soon with Attorney General today advising Governor C Vidyasar Rao to convene the assembly within in a week for a floor test to decide the fate of AIADMK rivals O Panneerselvam and V K Sasikala. Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi on Monday tendered his opinion to Governor Rao to convene a special session of the assembly for a composite test to determine who between the two warring leaders enjoys majority.
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In his opinion, sources said, Rohatgi has stated that “he (Governor) should call a special session within a week’s time and have a composite floor test as was ordered by the Supreme Court in the Jagdambika Pal case”.
The Attorney General has cited the 1998 Supreme Court judgement in the Jagdambika Pal case in which the apex court had ordered a floor test in the assembly to determine who between the two claimants — Pal and Kalyan Singh — commanded the majority support for chief ministership of Uttar Pradesh.
The political future of Sasikala, a long-time friend of former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister the late J Jayalalithaa, would, however, entirely hinge on the Supreme Court judgement in the disproportionate assets case likely tomorrow or the day after.
Sasikala, who was chosen AIADMK legislature party leader on February five, will be rendered ineligible for contesting an assembly election in the event of conviction, thereby stifling her ambition of becoming the Chief Minister. An acquittal, on the other hand, will put her on a more solid footing to face the floor test.
If she is convicted in the case in which the hugely popular Jayalalithaa is the main accused, Sasikala will have to hand pick another AIADMK leader for the top job.
Meanwhile, an embattled Sasikala, who had staked claim to form the government on February 9, met over 100 AIADMK MLAs lodged at a resort on Chennai’s outskirts for the third time in as many days.
Sasikala, also the party general secretary, has been struggling to keep the flock of 129 MLAs supporting her together after six of them switched over to Panneerselvam camp. Eleven MPs are also backing Pannerselvam. Tamil Nadu has a 234-member assembly.
Amid the continuing tug-of-war between the two factions, Sasikala said she got Pannerselvam removed as Chief Minister as he had “hobnobbed” with rival DMK and not declined support when offered by a leader.
“It was Panneerselvam who pushed us to do that, we did not do it on our own, and this is what happened. I would have allowed him (to continue in his post) as I did not aspire for being the CM and that is the truth,” she told party workers at Jayalalithaa’s Poes Garden residence here where she continues to live even after her mentor’s death.
Panneerselvam had last Tuesday alleged he was coerced into resigning as Chief Minister by Sasikala and her supporters. He said he was ready to reconsider the decision if people of the state and party workers so desired. Sasikala said Pannerselvam or OPS, as he is called in
political circles, did not categorically respond to DMK Deputy Leader in the assembly Duraimurugan’s offer of support last week.
“They (DMK) had thought that if possible, let Panneerselvam split the party and bring with him some legislators. And, with 89 MLAs (of DMK), a government could be formed,” she said.
“He should have told Duraimurugan that he does not need their support when the AIADMK has a majority,” Sasikala said adding “if Panneerselvam had said just that, I would have allowed him to continue, I would not have disturbed him.” Sasikala alleged several people were involved in the “conspiracy” to split the party soon after Jayalalithaa’s death.
Sensing trouble, she had asked asked five senior ministers, including Panneerselvam, to take charge immediately, the AIADMK General Secretary said.
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“I could have become Chief Minister if I had wanted when Amma passed away. That thought did not cross my mind for even a second,” Sasikala said, adding she wanted “Amma’s government to continue.”
She said she had asked Panneerselvam to take over as Chief Minister only “for the present.” Sasikala said Panneerselvam and other ministers even asked her to take charge to which she said, “We can look at it later”.
Meanwhile, in a related development, the Madras High Court today reserved its order on habeas corpus petitions related to alleged illegal detention of two AIADMK MLAs at a resort.
During arguments, Public Prosecutor told the court that the two MLAs had, in their own hand, told a visiting team of officials they had not been detained against their will. Pannerselvam camp has been insisting that the MLAs have been kept “hostage” at the resort by Sasikala and her supporters.
K Balu, counsel for MLA and petitioner in the case T Ramchandran, submitted that the only legal remedy in such cases was that the person under illegal detention had to be ordered to be produced in person before the court and that mere statements cannot be taken into account.
Public Prosecutor Rajarathinam submitted that an official team sent to the facility had also recorded the statements of 119 other AIADMK MLAs, besides the two for whose production before the court the petitions have been filed.
The division bench of Justices M Jaichandren and T Mathivanan then reserved its order.
Meanwhile, amid the intense struggle for power, Panneerselvam visited the state secretariat for the first time since his resignation on February 5 and being told by Governor Rao to continue in the post till alternative arrangements were put in place.
Dismissing suggestions that the state administration had virtually been paralysed due to his face-off with Sasikala, Panneerselvam had yesterday said he was meeting officials every day and that he would visit the secretariat today.
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