India: AIADMK chief Sasikala vows to tide over problems as lawmakers shift camps
Paneerselvam (bottom, 3L) is surrounded by supporters during a press conference at his home in Chennai on February 8, 2017 Photograph: (AFP)
The ruling party in India's southern state of Tamil Nadu continues to be blighted by defections, allegations and intrigue over who the next chief minister will be.
Tamil Nadu has been without a chief minister since last week, when O Panneerselvam resigned from the post due to alleged pressure from people in the ruling party, the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK).
Since then, the party has been split into two factions: one supporting Panneerselvam and the other backing the party chief VK Sasikala.
Though currently the numbers are with Sasikala, there are lawmakers who are yet to make up their mind and have switched loyalties.
Tamil Nadu has 235 lawmakers in its local assembly and the next chief minister will have to have support of at least 118 people.
On Sunday, the Panneerselvam bloc got a fresh boost when two members of the parliament extended their support, taking the total tally to ten.
Sasikala received a severe blow when one of the senior ministers, K Pandiarajan, joined forces with her political adversary.
Senguttuvan and J Jeyasingh extended their support and met Panneerselvam at his residence.
Former AIADMK MP Ramarajan also met O Panneerselvam to extend his support.
On Saturday, an MLA and 4 MPs of AIADMK joined Panneerselvam after deserting party general secretary Sasikala who threatened to hold a protest on Sunday while targeting Governor Ch Vidyasagar Rao for the delay in swearing her in as the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu.
But Sasikala has maintained that the numbers are on her side and is confident of becoming the next head of Tamil Nadu.
Sasikala took to Twitter to hit back at the opposing camp, saying she was confident of tiding over the current problem.
“Tiding rough sea has taken AIADMK to pinnacle of success. The same group which went against Amma is now attacking us. I am not scared of such threats,” she tweeted.
She also repsonded about a letter she apparently wrote to Jayalalithaa after being ousted from the party in 2011.
Panneerselvam had said she had written a letter to then party chief Jayalalithaa, in which she stated that she has no desire to get involved in politics.
Sasikala rubbished the letter, saying she never wrote such a letter.
“A letter has been circulated as if I have written it. It shows there are people who cannot tolerate a lady getting into politics.The letter which claims to have been written by me is false," she wrote on Twitter.
The infighting started last Sunday (February 5) when Panneerselvam stepped down from the chief ministerial post. It was initially understood that he had resigned to pave the way for Sasikala to be the next chief minister.
But two days later, Panneerselvam whipped up a storm when he claimed that he was forced to step down.