It is indeed amazing that there should be so much of a hassle in Tamil du to find a successor to the late Jayalalithaa. Immediately after the passing away of Jayalalithaa, O. Panneerselvam was sworn in as Chief Minister of Tamil du. At that point of time, about two months ago, there seemed to be no question of anyone in the AIADMK disputing the selection of Panneerselvam as Jayalalithaa’s successor, and the general impression was that Panneerselvam was also the chosen successor of Jayalalithaa. This is not to suggest that the persol choice of a deceased Chief Minister has to be the deciding factor in the selection of his/her successor in a democratic set-up. At that point of time in December 2016 the swearing in of Panneerselvam as Chief Minister of Tamil du was undisputed and almost automatic. The other important consideration in opting for Panneerselvam was that he was elected MLA, and there would be no constitutiol hassles in his being sworn in as Chief Minister. What has, therefore, come as a major surprise to all observers outside Tamil du is the sudden change in preference among the AIADMK members in favour of Sasikala who was Jayalalithaa’s closest friend and the one who has inherited the bulk of Jayalalithaa’s very impressive persol assets. What surprises most outsiders is that the preference of the AIADMK legislators should have shifted in a matter of just two months from Panneerslvam to Sasikala despite the fact that Sasikala would have to be elected within six months of her being sworn in as Chief Minister of Tamil du. What most outsiders would like to know is: (a) why Sasikala was not chosen as Jayalalitha’s successor in December 2016 immediately after Jayalalithaa’s passing away, and (b) why should the AIADMK MLAs now be so keen on installing Sasikala as Chief Minister of Tamil du despite the fact that she is not a member of the Tamil du Assembly, and would have to get elected within six months if she takes on the top job of the State. Is there such a terrible shortage of capable leaders in the AIADMK? The question of who was closest to the deceased Chief Minister of Tamil du should be of no consequence whatsoever in a democratic set-up. If the AIADMK seeks to give the impression that there is indeed a serious shortage of capable leaders within the party, the search for a suitable Chief Minister should have begun immediately after the demise of Jayalalithaa with the people being given a clear sigl that Panneerselvam was only a temporary choice to eble the AIADMK to buy time for choosing a suitable successor to Jayalalithaa. That is how responsible democracies are expected to function.
But this is not all there is to the choice of Sasikala by the AIADMK legislators as their leader in the House. There is a pending case in the Supreme Court against Sasikala relating to her persol assets. It is a case in which Jayalalithaa was also an accused, but since she is no more, the case against her abates. The Supreme Court had reserved the verdict in the case about eight months ago in June 2016. Usually, when verdicts are reserved, they are pronounced within 15 to 60 days of their being reserved. An apex court bench headed by Justice P.C. Ghose said that the verdict would be announced “next week” without announcing a specific date. Based on the Supreme Court’s observation, a Cheni-based NGO immediately petitioned the court that Sasikala should not be sworn in as Chief Minister of Tamil du till the verdict was delivered. This is in the fitness of things as the tion cannot afford to have chief ministers who have been involved in crimil cases but the verdicts of whose cases have been withheld just because the judicial system in the country has allowed many others involved in crimes to benefit from the law’s delay.