Less than two hours after the Supreme Court upheld the trial court’s verdict in the disproportionate assets case against AIADMK general secretary V K Sasikala and others, party MLAs staying at a resort in Koovathur on Tuesday elected Highways Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami as legislature party leader.
Caretaker Chief Minister O Panneerselvam was expelled from the primary membership of the ruling party on Tuesday. Along with him, several AIADMK rebels who have sided with him have been expelled from the party including Education Minister K Pandiarajan and senior leader C Ponnaiyan.
Meanwhile, an unfazed O Panneerselvam camp on Tuesday rejected the appointment of Sasikala loyalist Edappadi K Palaniswami as AIADMK Legislature Party leader. “Nobody has the authority to elect anybody,” was the terse response from School Education Minister K Pandiarajan, a supporter of Panneerselvam.
In a verdict delivered in just 8 minutes, the apex court also sentenced Sasikala to four years in jail, and imposed a fine of Rs 10 crore.
Sasikala now cannot become the Tamil Nadu CM, or contest elections for 10 years, including the 4 years of jail term. But since Sasikala has already served 6 months of this term, she will only have to serve another 3 and a half years, the SC ruled.
Sasikala has been locked in a bitter turf war with Panneerselvam, who made a dramatic volte-face last week to claim that he was forced to resign as chief minister by a section of party legislators. He had earlier resigned to make way for Sasikala, who was vying for the state’s top job.
Shortly before the AIADMK move, Panneerselvam harped on unity and said: “Let us forget the differences, temporary fight and come together to defeat the Opposition waiting to split the AIADMK.”
And after his expulsion, he said: “Amma’s atma is still around us and will guide us on the right path…Amma’s good governance and people welfare programmes will continue and follow the path of Amma.”
He told people to stay calm and said: “We will form a government without the help of any other party.”
On the development, BJP said that the appointment of a proxy can never win people’s trust and urged the Governor to take a decision on the basis of numbers as well as credibility. The party’s General Secretary and Tamil Nadu in-charge P Muralidhar Rao said Sasikala, whose hope of becoming the state’s chief minister was dashed following her conviction by the Supreme Court in a corruption case, may have the advantage of being the AIADMK chief but she unlike late J Jayalalithaa does not have people’s endorsement.
Deepa Peravai, a forum floated by supporters of late Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa’s niece Deepa Jayakumar, burst crackers and distributed sweets after conviction of Sasikala by the Supreme Court.
“The conviction is a divine verdict and Sasikala’s designs to dismantle democracy was smashed to pieces by the Supreme Court’s verdict,” said P M Bhaskar, Convener of the Deepa Peravai’s Puducherry unit.
Terming it as “right verdict”, Ms. Deepa Jayakumar, indirectly referring to Ms. Sasikala, said that those who are behind corruption have been taken to task.
On choosing ‘Edapaddi’ K. Palaniswam as AIADMK’s new Legislature Party leader, Ms. Deepa countered that Ms. Jayalalithaa had never endorsed Mr. Palaniswami for the top post. His election only shows that the Sasikala family will go to any extent to install a person of their choice to the leadership position.
“Sasikala going to jail, is very good for the cadres and people of Tamil Nadu”, Ms. Jayakumar said adding that she would be revealing his future plans on her aunt’s birth anniversary on February 24.