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Sasikala hits back, anoints EK Palanisamy AIADMK leader, Panneerselvam calls for unity

CHENI, Feb 14: Hours after the apex court ruling, Sasikala, as the party chief, axed acting Tamil du Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam and 19 more leaders from the AIADMK. But Panneerselvam refused to give up.

The MLAs backing ‘Chinmma’ Sasikala, who wished to take over as Chief Minister before Panneerselvam revolted, and holed up at a resort near here, also elected E. Palanisamy as their new legislature party leader.

Palanisamy, the Minister for Public Works, Highways and Minor Ports, lost no time in asking Governor C. Vidayasagar Rao to let him prove his majority in the assembly and form a government.

The apex court ruling set off celebrations in the Panneerselvam camp. His supporters burst firecrackers and danced outside his residence.

In a bid to win over the MLAs siding with Sasikala, Panneerselvam called the Supreme Court ruling “good news” and said “Amma” was still guiding the AIADMK and urged all legislators to unite.

“It is up to the MLAs to resolve the crisis. I urge everyone to forget the differences and unite,” he told his cheering supporters.

A fuming Sasikala, facing arrest, vowed to challenge the verdict.

She sacked from the AIADMK Panneerselvam and 19 other leaders on charges of acting against the party’s policies and principles.

They included School Education Minister K. Pandiarajan and former ministers C. Poniyan, P.H. Pandian, tham R. Viswathan, K.P. Munusamy and P. Mohan. But the MLAs and MPs backing Panneerselvam were spared.

The opposition hailed the Supreme Court verdict too.

DMK Working President M.K. Stalin said: “Justice has been restored. Now the Governor should take steps to ensure a stable government in Tamil du.”

Congress spokesperson Gopan told IANS: “Justice has been delivered after 20 years.”

Amid reports that Panneerselvam supporters may reach the resort where pro-Sasikala MLAs are putting up, security was tightened at the venue.

The infighting in the AIADMK erupted after Jayalalithaa passed away and Sasikala was elected the ruling party’s General Secretary on February 5.

She was then chosen the leader of the AIADMK legislature party, paving the way for her to become the Chief Minister.

That is when Panneerselvam, who had been twice acting Chief Minister earlier, revolted and alleged that he was forced by Sasikala to resign. As of now, most MLAs are with Sasikala but many MPs have switched loyalty.

BJP denies ‘role’ in TN

The Bharatiya Jata Party (BJP) on Tuesday said that neither the party nor the central government has any role to play in the Tamil du political situation, and termed the opposition’s allegations as “baseless”.

Union Minister M. Venkaiah idu and senior BJP functiory Ram Madhav denied that the BJP or the Centre had any role in the Tamil du situation.

“We have no role to play in Tamil du. The BJP has no interests there,” idu said.

Party General Secretary Ram Madhav reiterated the same thing. “To say that the BJP or the government of India has a hand in it (Tamil du political situation) is totally false and baseless,” Madhav said.

The opposition has been accusing the central government of interfering in the politics of Tamil du by not letting Governor C. Vidyasagar Rao take a concrete decision in the matter.

Madhav said it was not proper to raise fingers on the Governor’s conduct who would take a decision only after thoroughly considering the matter at hand.