The political turmoil in Tamil Nadu entered the fourth day on Friday as new developments kept political leaders, police officials and the mediapersons on their toes in the last three days in Chennai.
The power struggle followed the December 5 death of Jayalalithaa after almost two months of hospitalisation.
After Ms Jayalalithaa's death, the AIADMK said that Sasikala will be Amma's natural replacement as leader of the party. Later, the party decided decided that Sasikala would take over from Mr Panneerselvam as chief minister of Tamil Nadu.
For two days, Mr Panneerlsevam seemed to have no problem. Then, on Tuesday night, he appeared dramatically at Jayalalithaa's grave to declare that he had been forced to resign and now willing to keep his job.
Panneerselvam had an explanation behind his decision change in 48 hours saying Jayalalithaa's "spirit had appeared before me and urged me to fight."
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Sasikala, who is trying to become Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, had declared in writing to Jayalalithaa a few years ago that she had "no interest in politics," as claimed by Panneerselvam.
Sasikala is awaiting a Supreme Court verdict on a case of disproportionate assets.
Later, the political battle began in the party and attacks and counterattacks from both sides started coming in media from both faction of the party.
The power struggle reached at new peak on Thursday when governor Vidyasagar Rao returned to Chennai and met both claimants to the legacy of late chief minister Jayalalithaa.
Now, the ball is in the court of the governor, who has sent a report on the political situation in the state to the Centre after hearing out Sasikala and Panneerselvam.
Rao gave no hint of the course of action after accepting Sasikala’s claim in writing, with the names of lawmakers supporting her.
After meeting the governor, Panneerselvam briefed him about the present situation in the state and said that he was forced to uit as chief minister.
He told media after meeting with the Governor: "I’m confident justice will prevail."
The AIADMK has 135 members in the 234-member Tamil Nadu assembly. The Sasikala faction claims to have the support of at least 130 MLAs.
With AIADMK party set for a vertical split, here are few options before Governor Rao now-
1. Pannerselvam has said he will withdraw his resignation, but if he realises he doesn’t have the majority, he can recommend to the Governor to dissolve the assembly.
But, why would the MLAs go for fresh election with almost four years of their term remaining?
2. The Governor may ask Panneerselvam to prove his majority in the state assembly.
If the Governor gives more time to OPS, he would emerge stronger in case the SC ends up convicting Sasikala in the disproportionate assets case next week.
3. The Governor can also put the House in suspended animation if neither Sasikala nor Panneerselvam are able to prove their majority.
4. If Panneerselvam proves his majority, Governor Rao may refer to provisions of Anti-Defection Law to check if the expelled leader enjoys support of two-third of AIADMK MLAs.
5. If Sasikala, in case the Governor asks her to take oath, proves majority in House but gets convicted in the disproportionate assets case next week, the state will become leaderless. In that scenario, the Governor may impose President’s rule in the state.
6. The Governor may revoke Panneerselvam's resignation letter and reinstate him as a caretaker CM till a new leader is elected. But, then Panneerselvam will have to prove his the majority on the floor of the house.
A week ago Prime Minister Narendra Modi had a meeting with Panneerselvam and the PM, at the end of the meeting, is said to have had a conversation with OPS alone for a short while.
According to reports, Union minister Venkaiah Naidu has said that the Centre will back OPS as "he was chosen by Jayalalithaa." It is also being said that not just the BJP, the PM himself has been monitoring the situation in Tamil Nadu.
The Governor has the discretion to appoint as chief minister anyone who, in his opinion, is in a position to command a majority in the legislature.
However, in the light of conflicting claims, he may wait for the suggestions coming from the Union Home Ministry on the report he sent after his meeting with both Sasikala and Panneerselvam on Thursday.
Also Read | Panneerselvam-Sasikala battle brings back the memories of Jayalalithaa-Janki split after MGR demise
(With inputs from Agencies, PTI)