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Published On: Wed, Feb 8th, 2017

Acting alone and has “no connections with the BJP Says Panneerselvam

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imagesCHENNAI : O Panneerselvam, who has staged a dramatic rebellion against AIADMK chief VK Sasikala, has asserted that he is acting alone and has “no connections with the BJP.” But in the usually quiet and unassuming leader’s solitary defiance of his party’s decision to appoint Ms Sasikala, J Jayalalithaa’s long-time companion, Tamil Nadu’s next chief minister, a powerful backing is seen.

Mr Panneerselvam, praised by Delhi for his handling as Tamil Nadu chief minister of the colossal grief of J Jayalalithaa’s millions of supporters after she died in December and more recently of the Jallikattu crisis, is reportedly favoured for the state’s top post by the BJP-led Centre over Ms Sasikala, who has no political or administrative experience.

Ms Sasikala also has a corruption case against her that the Supreme Court is expected to give verdict on next week, and the BJP is among the parties that has suggested that she take oath only after the court’s ruling.
“I am not operating at the BJP’s behest,” said Mr Panneerselvam this morning reacting to reports that his dissent has the backing of the BJP’s top leadership. “I don’t wish to comment on the internal rift in the AIADMK. The Centre and the BJP have no role to play in this,” said Minister Venkaiah Naidu.

But Tamil Nadu Governor C Vidyasagar Rao, whose unavailability has delayed Ms Sasikala being sworn in as chief minister, is said to be in close touch with the Centre on how to proceed.

Mr Rao has accepted Mr Panneerselvam’s resignation – which he now says he was forced to hand in to facilitate Ms Sasikala’s takeover – and asked him to continue as caretaker chief minister. But instead of heading to Chennai from Delhi, where he was attending the wedding reception of a union minister’s daughter, Mr Rao flew to Mumbai, a move that has raised eyebrows.

“As Governor refuses to conduct swearing in, an outgoing Tamil Nadu CM rebels. Is PM Modi trying to bring down one more elected Govt?” tweeted the Congress’ Randeep Surjewala.

Some see in the delay in Ms Sasikala’s oath ceremony, a move to allow forces against her to consolidate as social media campaigns and public opinion attack the AIADMK over seeking to install a Chief Minister who has never even contested an election and whose only claim to the post is her proximity to Ms Jayalalithaa.

After Mr Panneerselvam’s revolt last night, Ms Sasikala staged a show of strength at her Poes Garden residence in Chennai calling a party meeting that was attended by most of the AIADMK’s legislators and ministers.

But this morning a prominent Rajya Sabha member of the party, Dr V Maitreyan said, “Sooner or later, MLAs will come out in support of OPS.” Dr Maitreyan indicated support from the Centre but asserted that it “can only be moral support, not political support.”

Important for the BJP is the AIADMK’s strength in Parliament – the party has 37 MPs in the Lok Sabha and 13 in Rajya Sabha and have proved crucial in helping the government push important legislation, especially in the Upper House where it is in a minority.

The BJP would also like to enlist the AIADMK’s support when the President and Vice President are chosen later this year.

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