The race for the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister's chair took a dramatic turn yesterday when the Supreme Court sentenced contender and AIADMK General Secretary Sasikala to four years in jail in connection with a corruption case.
While the verdict effectively ruled her out of contention, Sasikala has been moving quickly to nix the ambitions of her rival, Chief Minister O Panneerselvam, through a proxy. Here’s a lowdown of the latest developments in the ongoing tussle:
1. Hours after Sasikala’s conviction, her loyalist Edappadi Palaniswami was elected the AIADMK’s legislature party leader. Panneerselvam and the legislators backing him were then expelled from the party, a move which his camp claims has no validity.
2. On Tuesday evening, Palaniswami met Governor Vidyasagar Rao for ten minutes and staked his claim to the chief minister’s chair with the backing of 119 MLAs, two more than required. After the meeting ended, senior AIADMK leader V Maitreyan, who is backing Panneerselvam, met the Governor.
3. Late on Tuesday, Sasikala left a resort near Chennai where she was camping with the majority of the party’s legislators and headed back to her Poes Garden home in Chennai. She was expected to surrender in Bengaluru on Wednesday morning, but party leader Gokul Indra said Sasikala had sought more time on health grounds.
4. Panneerselvam led a late-night march to Jayalalithaa’s memorial in Chennai, where the late chief minister’s niece Deepa Jayakumar announced her entry into politics and pledged her support to the caretaker chief minister. “I and OPS (Panneerselvam) will act as the two hands of the AIADMK," she said. "We will work together in future."
5. The Governor now has to choose between Palaniswami and Panneerselvam for the chief minister's chair. The country’s Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi has advised Raj Bhavan to organise a floor test in the Assembly, where the two leaders will be tasked to prove their majority.