Sasikala herds MLAs to undisclosed location as governor keeps her guessing

CHENNAI: AIADMK general secretary VK Sasikala on Wednesday mustered an overwhelming majority of party MLAs against a rebellious O Panneerselvam , who claimed he has the backing of several legislators.

After Panneerselvam's midnight rebellion, Sasikala called a meeting of party MLAs at the AIADMK headquarters in a show of strength on Wednesday morning and later herded them in buses to undisclosed destination in a bid to keep the flock together.

There were unconfirmed reports that AIADMK would even parade the MLAs before the President if the Governor delays the swearing in of Sasikala.

Meanwhile, injecting a new twist to the ongoing political drama in Tamil Nadu, Governor C Vidyasagar Rao would be reaching here on Thursday.

Rao, who had kept away from Chennai for the last three days triggering speculation whether he had reservations on swearing in Sasikala, will reach here on Thursday afternoon but there was no word on what he plans to do.

Jurists were divided on whether Sasikala, against whose acquittal in a disproportionate assets case the Supreme Court is likely to deliver its verdict next week, can be sworn in.

In an act of defiance, Panneerselvam said an inquiry commission under a sitting Supreme Court judge will be set up to probe the "doubts" surrounding the health condition and demise of Jayalalithaa.

Addressing the legislators, Sasikala, who had sacked Panneerselvam from the post of treasurer last night, launched a no-holds-barred attack on him, saying he had betrayed the party and "fully merged" with DMK which Jayalalithaa had fought all her life.She claimed she had got wind of his moves a few days ago itself and asserted that the party remains united and will not be cowed down by such threats.Accusing arch rival DMK of trying to destabilise the party, Sasikala said "betrayal" will never win in the AIADMK and that no one will be able to divide the party.Panneerselvam, who was chosen by Jayalalithaa as stop-gap chief minister when she had to quit twice due to adverse court verdicts, maintained that he enjoyed support of majority of MLAs and would prove it on the floor of the house at an appropriate time."The Ministers and MLAs who area now with the other side will soon realise the reality and the current extraordinary situation will change," he said, an apparent reference to the ministers rallying behind Sasikala.Former Speaker P H Pandian, who attacked Sasikala yesterday, and senior Rajya Sabha member Dr V Maitreyan on Thursday showed up at the chief minister's residence in a show of solidarity.Panneerselvam also dismissed accusation by Sasikala that he was colluding with the DMK and by others that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP were backing him.He said he was in touch with no one and that he did not need support of either the DMK or the BJP.

The chief minister said the stand he has taken enjoyed wide public support as the people want a "good and deserving" person on the post.Lok Sabha Deputy Speaker M Thambidurai rejected Panneerselvam's claims and said that the party had all the 134 MLAs with it.

"We are united. There is no dispute or difference," he said.On his part, DMK working president MK Stalin said his party had nothing to with "internal squabbles" in AIADMK and accused Sasikala of making false allegations after failing to become chief minister through a "short cut".