February 13, 2017 2:56:15 am
Six more MPs, including one from Rajya Sabha, pledged loyalty to Tamil Nadu CM O Panneerselvam Sunday in a move seen as a setback to AIADMK chief V K Sasikala. Sasikala, however, met party MLAs put up at a resort and sought 72 hours from them to form the next government. Conceding that losing 11 MPs was a blow, a senior party leader in the Sasikala camp, said: “We consider each MP equal to a minimum of six MLAs.” Five Lok Sabha MPs who switched over to the OPS camp Sunday were J Jeyasingh Thiyagaraj Natterjee (Thoothukudi), B Senguttavan (Vellore), R P Marudaraja (Perambalur), S Rajendran (Villupuram), and R Parthiban (Theni). Rajya Sabha MP R Lakshmanan too backed the caretaker CM.
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Amid continued uncertainty over Sasikala’s swearing-in as the next CM, Governor C Vidyasagar Rao, who did not respond to the AIADMK chief’s request for appointment, met Rajya Sabha MP V Maitreyan from the OPS camp. Meanwhile, an ultimatum given by V K Sasikala to begin an agitation against the Governor ended at 6 pm on Sunday with no protest being announced. Sources close to Lok Sabha Deputy Speaker M Thambi Durai said he was facing Sasikala’s wrath for failing to keep the flock of AIADMK MPs together. “He is being blamed for losing 11 MPs. He has cancelled his plan to come to Chennai and has stayed back in Delhi,” the source said.
As the desertions unfolded, Sasikala met AIADMK MLAs housed at a private resort in Kuvathur on Sunday evening. During the closed-door interaction, she is learnt to have promised them that she will form the government in 72 hours and asked them to “stay strong”. In a press meet later, she tried to dispel “rumours” that the MLAs had been locked up at the resort. She said all the MLAs were in touch with their families and also claimed that some women legislators were being threatened by unidentified people.
Asked about the number of MLAs in her faction, she said, pointing at the MLAs lined up behind her, “You may count.” About the pending disproportionate assets case verdict against her, she said: “Let it come first. Why don’t you wait?” She said: “Those who are sitting here are the government. We are sitting here to form our government. Thalaivar (MGR) and Amma (Jayalalithaa) are here with us… Our 129 MLAs…are like a sea that nobody can stop.”
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Calling Jayalalithaa a lioness, she said she was a lioness cub who had upset many rivals and that had led to the present crisis. “Amma has given us a government, it is our responsibility to use it for the welfare of people. You are all elected by people, all of you should go to your constituencies and tell people about what happened in these days. After I was elected the party’s general secretary, I visited Amma’s Memorial and I was unable to return. Some energy was pulling me back. And I told her that I will live for this party,” she said.
In less than half an hour, Panneerselvam too addressed reporters and requested MLAs to seek the view of people in their constituencies. Repeating his doubts on mystery surrounding Jayalalithaa’s death, he said he was not allowed to see her. Out of 50 AIADMK MPs, two Rajya Sabha MPs and nine Lok Sabha MPs have joined the OPS camp so far. The camp claims support of seven MLAs, including the caretaker CM and Education Minister M Pandiarajan.
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