Sasikala claims support of 129 legislators, Panneerselvam says will prove strength in Assembly

If convicted, Sasikala will be disqualified from contesting any election for six years. Photograph:( AFP )

WION Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India Feb 12, 2017, 05.45 PM (IST)

AIADMK general secretary Sasikala and Tamil Nadu's incumbent chief minister Panneerselvam continued to stake their claim to the chief minister's post on Sunday.

In her address to Members of Legislative Assembly (MLAs), most of whom who are currently lodged in a resort near Chennai, Sasikala claimed support of 129 legislators. 

"You 129 MLAs are like an ocean. None can contain it by building a check dam. No efforts will destabilise this government. None can hurt us and there is no need to fear," she said.

She also accused acting chief minister O Panneerselvam of instigating "some of our own" and asked the legislators to continue serving the people and ensure AIADMK's continued electoral success.

Sasikala, who had earlier in the day observed that it was "very difficult" to be a woman in politics, said there were efforts to "intimidate" her as she was a woman, but asserted that she would not be cowed down.

She also broke down, reminiscing her predecessor, former chief minister J Jayalalithaa. 

Accusing O Panneerselvam of instigating "some of our own", she asked the legislators to continue serving the people and ensure AIADMK's continued electoral success.

Paneerselvam, on the other hand, said he would prove his strength on the floor of the Assembly.

"Shedding crocodile tears, passing new remarks every day is not going to help. Will prove everything in assembly," he said.

"Many many party cadres were voicing their opinion against Sasikala assuming charge as Tamil Nadu chief minister, he said.

Five legislators from Tamil Nadu assembly have officially joined Panneerselvam, who is an MLA himself.

The Tamil Nadu assembly has 234 members and to be chief minister, a leader has to prove the support of 118 lawmakers.

AIADMK lawmaker and the state's School Education Minister  K Pandiarajan, who switched sides yesterday, said more legislators would walk away from Sasikala, NDTV had reported.

Panneerselvam claimed that the MLAs lodged in the resort were being intimidated with the aid of goons.

"Even today many party MLAs are contacting me and telling, for each MLA there are four 'gundas' (goons) sitting," the acting chief minister told ANI.

He called for the legislators to be "released" so that they could meet people in their respective constituencies.

Governor awaiting verdict in disproportionate assets case: Sources

Tamil Nadu Governor C Vidyasagar Rao, meanwhile, is reportedly unfazed and is awaiting the top court verdict on the disproportionate assets case involving the AIADMK general secretary.

NDTV quoted sources as saying that the Governor believes he has a constitutional duty to ensure a stable government is formed in the state. If convicted, Sasikala will not be able to contest elections for six years.

"It is not just a question of numbers. The Governor is concerned about the ability to form a stable government. It is not right to try to intimidate with threats," a source told NDTV. He was referring to the AIADMK general secretary's threats of launching a protest over what she says is a "deliberate delay" to divide her party.

(WION with inputs from PTI, ANI)