Chennai, February 7 (NIA/TNIE): As Chennai-based journalist Sofia Juliet put it aptly, it was like a night watchman suddenly turning out to be the Man of the Match! Former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, the mild mannered O.Panneerselvam, unexpectedly and uncharacteristically, turned the tables on interlopers Sasikala and her husband Natarajan and declared that he was forced to resign from the post of Chief Minister.
Sitting in a meditative pose at the Samadhi of the late Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J.Jayalalithaa here on Tuesday, Paneerselvam or OPS as he is called affectionately, declared that he would fight for his rights, alone if need be.
OPS was forced to vacate the Chief Minister’s post by Sasikala and her husband. The State Governor Vidyasagar, even accepted his resignation. And Sasikala was to to be sworn-in as Chief Minister on January 9. But the swearing-in had to be postponed indefinitely because of a pending corruption case against her. Party dissidents Sasikala Pushpa and senior leader and former State Assembly Speaker P.H.Pandian along with his son and former MLA, Manoj Pandian , called a press conference to say that her election as General Secretary of the all India Anna Dravida Kazhagam (AIADMK) was in violation of the party constitution.
OPS said he would withdraw his resignation and continue as Chief Minister if the people and party cadre wanted him to.
“Someone chosen by the grassroots cadre should be the General Secretary; one acceptable to the people should be the chief minister. I am prepared to stand alone and fight on this, I am ready for it,” he said addressing the media on Tuesday night.
The first to make such a demand was Revenue Minister RB Udhayakumar, just after a few days of Paneerselvam taking oath after Jayalalithaa’s death. Soon after other joined in. ‘Sellur’ K Raju and KA Sengottaiyan, who had fallen out of favor with Jayalalithaa when she was alive and was then brought back to prominence in the party by Sasikala after she took over as party General Secretary, pressed for the change in command too.
“If it were personal insults, I would have taken it in my stride as part of public life. However, this insulted the position and the party itself. I was hurt,” Panneerselvam said. On Sunday, when Sasikala was elected as the leader of the legislative party by the MLAs, Panneerselvam said he had asked the reason for the haste.
He said he had spoken to Sasikala when his ministers raised the demand in public, and that she had assured him that they were chided about it and asked not to speak on the matter again.
“But soon enough a legislature party meeting was called,” said Panneerselvam, “in which I was pressured further saying I should not let the party unity be affected and I should, therefore, do what’s in the party’s best interest.”
He said he told the gathered MLAs that he wanted to spend some time at Jayalalithaa’s memorial and think over it before taking a decision, but they insisted that he make the decision then and there. He then acquiesced to their demands, he said, under pressure.
Recalling the efforts taken by his government, including the relief work during Cyclone Vardah, the initiative to meet Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu to seek drinking water for Chennai, and finally the handling of the Jallikattu protests, he said this had irked Sasikala and family.
Stating that his conscience was not letting him keep mum anymore, Panneerselvam said he would fight, even if alone, to ensure that someone that had the support of the people — and not just the MLAs — would become Chief Minister.
(The featured picture at the top shows ousted Chief Minister Tamil Nadu O.Paneerselvam meditating at Jayalalithaa’s samadhi on the Marina in Chennai before announcing his revolt)