India: Warring AIADMK factions refuse to back out, all eyes on governor

AIADMK supporters in front of the residence of the acting chief minister O Panneerselvam of the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu in Chennai on February 14, 2017. Photograph:( AFP )

DNA Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India Feb 16, 2017, 05.13 AM (IST)

G Jagannath

With the two warring factions of the Indian state of Tamil Nadu's ruling AIADMK party, headed by caretaker Chief Minister O Panneerselvam and AIADMK general secretary VK Sasikala, refusing to blink, all eyes are on governor Vidyasagar Rao's next move.

Edapaddi K Palanisamy, who was elected as the legislature party leader by Sasikala loyalists, called on the governor again on Wednesday, staking his claim to form the government. Immediately after he left, Panneerselvam reached the Raj Bhavan with his supporters.

After the meeting with the governor, fisheries minister D Jayakumar of Sasikala camp said Palanisamy had the support of 125 MLAs. "We are hoping that the governor will call us to form the government at the earliest. We have given him a list of 125 MLAs supporting him. We hope the governor uphold the democracy and the Constitution," he told reporters after meeting the governor.

However, Panneerselvam, who met the governor later, did not meet the press. Later, he along with his supporters held a closed-door meeting in his house. Panneerselvam, who has been offered support by only 10 MLAs so far, has been insisting that he would prove his majority on the floor of the House.

There has been no official word from Rao, who, on Monday, was advised by attorney general Mukul Rohatgi to convene a special session of the Legislative Assembly within a week for holding a composite floor test.

The governor had kept his decision pending as the verdict in the disproportionate assets (DA) case against Sasikala, a claimant for chief ministership, was due to be announced by the Supreme Court, which delivered it on Tuesday, restoring her conviction and sentence, which shattered her hopes of occupying the top seat.

Even after the Sasikala's conviction, her camp still remains united with the majority of the MLAs with them. Though Panneerselvam camp continued to allege that the MLAs were being held captive in the Golden Bay Resort in Koovathur near Mahabalipuram, the Sasikala camp MLAs and minister continued to brief the press, denying the charges.

On Wednesday, Koovathur police registered a case against Sasikala and her supporters on charges of kidnapping and illegally confining party MLAs at a resort following a complaint filed by Madurai South MLA Saravanan, who escaped from the resort to join the OPS camp.

Following the legislator's complaint, Northern region IG Senthamarai Kanan and Kancheepuram district SP J Mutharasi entered the resort and began inquiries with the MLAs who denied the charges.

Ahead of leaving for Bangalore to surrender before the court following the Supreme Court verdict in the wealth case, Sasikala on Wednesday reinducted her close relatives TTV Dinkaran and S Venkatesh into the party, five years after their expulsion by late Jayalalithaa.

Sasikala appointed Dinakaran, her nephew and former Rajya Sabha member, the deputy general secretary of AIADMK, a move seen by many as an attempt to hand over the party's control to him till her return from jail.

His appointment prompted V Karuppasamy Pandian, a senior AIADMK leader to resign as the party's organisation secretary. An angry Pandian went to the extent of questioning Sasikala's authority of reinducting people expelled by Jayalalithaa, and asking if AIADMK was her "family property".

(This report first appeared in DNA)