India: Suspense grows in Tamil Nadu as five more MPs join O Panneerselvam

Paneerselvam (bottom, 3L) is surrounded by supporters during a press conference at his home in Chennai on February 8, 2017 Photograph:( AFP )

DNA Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India Feb 13, 2017, 03.48 AM (IST)

By G Jagannath

Even as support for Tamil Nadu's caretaker chief minister O Panneerselvam grew on Sunday, with five more MPs crossing over to his camp, AIADMK general secretary VK Sasikala paraded her MLAs before the media at the private resort, saying that no MLA has been held captive and whoever wants can take a head count.

Sasikala also cautioned the media against rushing to conclusions in the disproportionate assets (DA) case and said that both Jayalalithaa and herself had seen Chennai and Bangalore prisons and had again returned to power. 

"We will form the government, then visit Amma's memorial and take a photograph. I'll show it to the world," she told MLAs.

Early on Sunday, four Lok Sabha members—Jaisingh Thiyagaraj Natterjee (Thoothukudi), B Senguttuvan (Vellore), RP Marutharaja (Perambalur) and S Rajendran (Villupuram)—and Rajya Sabha member R Lakshmanan switched over to Panneerselvam camp.

 As of now, Panneerselvam enjoys the support of seven MLAs and 10 MPs, including two from Rajya Sabha. The Greenways Road, where Panneerselvam's residence is located, wore a festive look with a large number of his supporters thronging there.

The suspense over the formation of new government, however, continued with Governor Vidyasagar Rao maintaining a stoic silence over his move even as BJP leader Subramanian Swamy tweeted that the former has to decide on the issue by Monday.

"The TN Guv must decide CM issue by tomorrow otherwise a WP (writ petition) under Art 32 of the Constitution can be filed charging abetment of horse trading," Swamy said on Twitter.

Rajya Sabha member V Maitreyan too called on the Governor to complain that the party MLAs continue to be held captive in the resort, and cited the fresh complaints being filed in the districts, sources said.

Before heading for the resort, Sasikala told journalists outside the Poes Garden, the residence of her mentor and former Chief Minister, the late J Jayalalithaa, that it was "very difficult" to be a woman in politics.

Sasikala also displayed a copy of a 'fake letter' allegedly sent by her to Governor C Vidyasagar Rao threatening to commit suicide if she was not allowed to form the government.

Sasikala, flanked by some of women party MLAs, also alleged that the MLAs had received threats that their children would be abducted for backing her. She alleged that those who defected and the rivals were spreading falsehood that the MLAs were being held hostage. "They are in touch with their family over phone," she said.

Meanwhile, the Opposition DMK has convened its high-level executive committee on Monday to discuss the present political situation. The meeting would be chaired by DMK Working President MK Stalin, party General Secretary K Anbazhagan said in a statement.

The DMK had already stated the administration in the state has come to a standstill following the standoff between the two rival camps in the AIADMK and has urged the Governor to restore normalcy.

(This report first appeared in DNA)