Tamil Nadu Chief Minister O Panneerselvam has a lot of ground support both in urban and rural Tamil Nadu, but all that support would be meaningless if his party MLAs do not back him, according to N Ram, Chairman of The Hindu.
Ram was speaking to CNBC-TV18 hours after Panneerselvam's rival, AIADMK General Secretary Sasikala, was convicted in a disproportionate assets case and sentenced to four years in jail, effectively ending her bid to become Tamil Nadu Chief Minister. She had gathered support from the majority of the party's legislators in recent days, but her conviction means that she will be disqualified from electoral politics for at least a decade, in keeping with a Supreme Court ruling on convicted politicians.
Ruled out of the race, Sasikala wasted no time in quelling the charge of her rival and sitting Chief Minister, O Panneersevlam. She expelled her party colleague within a couple of hours of the Supreme Court ruling. Ram said that the caretaker chief minister is sure to contest the explusion very soon.
Panneerselvam needs the support of 117 legislators in the 243-member Assembly to assume the throne. But Ram said he is not even close to that number. The AIADMK has 135 members in the Assembly.
Sasikala can prop a candidate of her choice, but Ram felt she would find it tough to pull the strings from behind bars given the long sentence.
The opposition DMK's interests too will be affected if Panneerselvam is elected to run the state, said Ram, adding that the party has been doing its best to avoid his victory, and have been pitching for a victory of opposing factions.
"By constantly asking for a stable government, speedy floor tests and the like, DMK have been playing its cards right," said Ram.
Earlier in the day, the Supreme Court had convicted Sasikala and two of her relatives for amassing disproportionate wealth to the tune of Rs 66 crore. The court abated proceedings against former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa, who passed away in December and was the prime accused in the case.
Reacting to the verdict, Sasikala said: "Whenever Amma (Jayalalithaa) was in crisis, I also suffered. This time also, I will take it upon me. Justice will prevail."