CHENNAI: For the fourth consecutive day the political battlefield in Tamil Nadu has been so action-filled that not many were enthusiastic about the famous Alanganallur jallikattu organised on Friday – the conduct of which the people of the state fought for only a few weeks ago.
On Friday, the state’s governor Ch Vidyasagar Rao, whose decisions would shape the further course of events, held a discussion with Chief Secretary Girija Vaidyanathan and the Director General of police TK Rajendran in the morning. But there was no word yet from him on whether he would ask the ruling AIADMK’s general secretary V K Sasikala to form the next government or allow the present Chief Minister O Panneerselvam, who is now revolting against his party’s leadership, to withdraw his resignation to prove his strength in the assembly.
The numbers game was still in favour of Sasikala till this afternoon as most of the AIADMK party men who walked out in support of Pannerselvam are old party hands, not sitting MLAs. Pannerselvam camp’s claims that all the MLAs – except the five supporting him – were being held hostage in two luxury hotels on the scenic East Coast Road far away from the city.
The MLAs, most of whom had kept their phones switched off for the past two days, today came out and addressed mediapersons saying they were all staying in the hotels on their own accord. The reason given by one MLA to a TV channel on why they had all gathered at one place was that all the MLAs were set to proceed for a function elsewhere and the hotel was “just a convenient place on the way” for a stopover.
The matter was discussed for a second day this afternoon in the Madras High Court which heard a couple of habeas corpus petitions seeking that the court set the MLAs free. However, the court did not pass any strong orders as an additional public prosecutor representing the government sought time to get instructions from the government before he could make any submissions. However, he retracted his earlier submission in the court that the legislators were free and were present at the MLAs’ hostel in Chepauk. The bench headed by Justice CT Selvam directed the police to file an affidavit on the issue and instructed them to ascertain if the MLAs were indeed being held hostage, as the Panneerselvam camp had claimed.
Meanwhile, AIADMK’s presidium chairman E Madhusudanan has written a belated letter to the Election Commission against the nomination of Sasikala as the party’s general secretary. Madhusudanan, who till Wednesday was with Sasikala, had on Thursday switched to Panneerselvam’s camp. He justified his shifting of loyalty saying he wanted to protect the party from “the clutches of a family”, referring to the alleged influence of Sasikala’s family in the party’s affairs.
Sasikala’s camp struck back by announcing that the general secretary (Sasikala) had expelled Madhusudanan from the party and that former Minister KA Sengottaiyan was chosen as the new presidium chairman of the party.
With Madhusudanan having been the presidium chairman of the party now joining Pannerselvam, its erstwhile treasurer, the OPS camp clearly seems to be trying to prove that it has control of the AIADMK’s organisational setup. The letter sent by Madhusudanan is considered OPS camp’s strategic move to unsettle Sasikala from the organisational set up.
In the letter to EC, Madhusudanan has cited the party’s byelaws to assert that Sasikala is not eligible to become the party’s general secretary. And the camp had also argued that Pannerselvam’s removal as treasurer from the party was against the byelaws as Sasikala being a “temporary general secretary”did not have the powers to remove the treasurer.
Meanwhile, Congress sources said that the S Thirunavukkarasar, president of the Congress’s TN unit, was questioned by the party’s leader, vice-president Rahul Gandhi, for his alleged pro-Sasikala stand. Senior congress leaders, including P Chidambaram, from the state met Rahul Gandhi today in Delhi.
M K Stalin, the working president of the state’s principal opposition, was busy at Alanganallur watching the jallikattu. When approached by mediapersons to comment on the political developments in the ruling AIADMK, he excused himself saying he was there to watch the bull-taming sport and would prefer not to discuss the power battles, at least at that venue.