O Panneerselvam on Saturday got a boost, with an MLA and four MPs of AIADMK joining him after deserting VK Sasikala who threatened to hold protest tomorrow while targeting Governor Vidyasagar Rao for the delay in swearing her in as the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu.
Sasikala, the AIADMK General Secretary who met the legislators supporting her at a retreat near Chennai, said on Saturday night that the delay by the Governor in inviting her to form the government appeared to "facilitate split in our party."
Earlier in the day, she wrote to the Governor, asking him to take steps immediately to swear her in at the earliest. She said she was ready to parade the party MLAs supporting her before him.
Her outburst came as MLA and School Education Minister K Pandiarajan and four MPs -- P R Sundaram, K Ashok Kumar, V Sathyabama and Vanaroja -- switched over to the Chief Minister's camp, pledging their support to him amid mounting pressure from the party cadres and apparent public sentiment.
Party veteran C Ponnaiyan, party spokesman and minister in the MGR Cabinet, also drove to Panneerselvam's residence and offered his support.
After these switchovers, Panneerselvam camp now has seven MLAs, including him. In the 235-member Tamil Nadu Assembly, AIADMK has 135 MLAs.
A former minister MM Rajendra Prasad also joined the Chief Minister's camp.
Rattled by the desertions, Sasikala, who has been elected the Leader of the AIADMK Legislature Party on 5 February, drove to the luxury resort, 100 km from here, in an attempt to prevent the MLAs who have been put up there for the last three days from switching sides.
KA Sengottaiyan, who was appointed the presidium chairman after the removal of Madhusudhanan, told reporters after Sasikala's meeting with the MLAs that all of them have taken a pledge that they will back her to the hilt till she becomes Chief Minister.
As the Governor remained indecisive even 48 hours after she staked claim to form the government, Sasikala tonight said, "We waited till today. Tomorrow, we will protest in another form."
However, she did not elaborate what she meant by protesting in "another form."
Referring to the "delay" by the Governor in inviting her to form the government, Sasikala said it appeared "if such delay was happening to facilitate split in our party."
Earlier, speaking to reporters here after returning from a resort where she held a meeting with her party legislators, she said she met all the legislators and they are "all fine".
She said she had the satisfaction of meeting "AIADMK family members."
Asked if her party was contemplating any legal steps on the matter, Sasikala responded, "Please wait and see."
Meeting partymen at her residence, Sasikala also gave a veiled warning over the "delay" in being sworn in and said, "we are being patient because of our belief in fairness and trust in democracy. But we can be patient only to a limit but beyond that we will decide what we will do."
Sasikala also wrote a letter to Governor Vidyasagar Rao earlier in the day, asking him to take steps immediately to swear her in at the earliest. She said she was ready to parade the party MLAs supporting her before him.
She told him she had on Thursday submitted an "elaborate presentation to invite me to form the government as I have absolute majority," besides the original letter and true copy of the resolution electing her as the AIADMK Legislature party leader.
Sasikala said she believed that the Governor would "act immediately to save the sovereignty of the Constitution, democracy and the interest" of Tamil Nadu.
Sundaram and Ashok Kumar, Lok Sabha members from Namakkal and Krishnagiri, respectively extended their support to Panneerselvam, who has raised a banner of revolt against Sasikala.
Later in the evening, Sathyabama and Vanaroja, representing Tiruppur and Tiruvannamalai constituencies in the Lok Sabha, also came out in support of Panneerselvam, saying he enjoys the support of the people.
Rajya Sabha MP V Maitreyan has already extended support to Panneerselvam.
Sathyabama, in a veiled attack on Sasikala, said, "A priest, though venerable, cannot become God, and similarly nobody can become Amma."
She accused Sasikala of favouring those who were "rejected" by late Jayalalithaa.
"Today, those were rejected by Amma are holding big positions there (Sasikala group)," Satyabama said, flanked by Panneerselvam and other leaders of his faction.
She said Panneerselvam would "continue in office" and fulfil all the schemes that were envisioned by Amma for the people.
"People's support is there. I was flooded with phone calls from voters of my constituency to take a good decision," she said.
People consider only late Jayalalithaa as "Amma," she said and added that it will be Panneerselvam who will be able to take forward her work.
She also voiced Pannerselvam's choice phrase of "dharma will triumph."
Attacking Sasikala, Maitreyan said attempts were being made to create law and order problems in Tamil Nadu and urged the Union Home Minister to take steps to ensure peace.
Ponnaiyan, who switched over from Sasikala camp, told the cadres, "The leadership of the party and government should be in good hands and that is Panneerselvam who was trusted thrice by Jayalalithaa to be Chief Minister. All of us should work towards this goal."
With inputs from PTI
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Updated Date: Feb 13, 2017 21:50 PM