Sasikala stakes claim to form govt amidst high drama in Chennai

V K Sasikala, the long-time companion of late Tamil Nadu chief minister and Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam leader J Jayalilathaa, today staked claim to form government with a majority of AIADMK MLAs clinging to her camp for lack of direction.

V K SasikalaSasikala who herded off majority of AIADMK MLAS to an undisclosed destination a day before to ensure they remain in her camp, now carries a list of 130 MLAs claiming to support her.

But, with acting chief minister staging a revolt saying he was forced to resign against his wishes and the larger will of the party, and several elders in the party speaking against the impost of Sasikala on the party, the suspense over the swearing-in of the new ministry continues.

Panneerselvam has also instituted an enquiry into the circumstances leading to the hospitalisation and subsequent death of Jayalalithaa, in an obvious move against Sasikala and her supporters.

Panneerselvam has vowed to convert Jayalalithaa's Poes Garden bungalow into a memorial for the leader. If he succeeds, the casualty will be current occupant Sasikala.

To turn the tide against Sasikala, Panneerselvam fished out a letter attributed to Sasikala and addressed to Jayalalithaa in 2012 in which Chinnamma told her ''Akka'' (elder sister): ''The act of my relatives and friends conspiring against Akka is an unforgivable treachery. Whoever it maybe I do not want to have anything to do with them.''

The letter, written before Sasikala was readmitted to Jayalalithaa's house, carried these words too: ''As far as I am concerned, I have absolutely no desire to enter politics or public life, or hold posts in the party or become MLA or MP or become minister.''

The ''same Sasikala on Thursday said she would become chief minister at any cost. Who is betraying their promise to Amma?'' Panneerselvam asked his supporters. Political pundits were quick to highlight that till yesterday, Panneerselvam had addressed her as ''Chinnamma'' which became ''Sasikala'' several times in his speech today – the equivalent of crossing the Rubicon.

At Raj Bhavan, Panneerselvam reportedly requested the governor to let him prove his majority in the Assembly.

The OPS camp received a substantial boost as E Madhusudhanan, presidium chairman of the AIADMK and a veteran leader, switched camps and declared that the AIADMK needed to be saved from the clutches of Sasikala's family.

The 74-year-old leader was among the first leaders who had held Sasikala's hands three days after Jayalalithaa's death and pleaded with her to become general secretary of the party.

The legislator count of the OPS camp went up to seven after an MLA – former minister Shanmuganathan – jumped from the bus. Shanmuganathan said he signed the register supporting Sasikala on Wednesday afternoon but changed his mind after hearing her assert that ''nothing can stop me from becoming chief minister''.

Panneerselvam said that more than 30 MLAs were ready to extend support but were being kept captive in the beach resort near Mahabalipuram. He summoned the state's chief secretary and the DGP to find out if the MLAs could be freed with police help but was advised to take up the matter with the governor

Tamil Nadu DGP T K Rajendran will visit the Golden Bay Resort in Mahabalipuram, where 100 AIADMK MLAs are allegedly held 'hostage' by the Sasikala camp. He will also visit the MLA Hostel in Chennai.

Reports, meanwhile, said an MLA jumped from one of the buses in which the Sasikala camp was ferrying legislators to a minister's house en route to the beach resort when it slowed down. He ran to the house of the caretaker chief minister, Panneerselvam.

A veteran from the MGR era executed a stunning somersault and moved over to OPS, days after endorsing Sasikala.

With the arrival of the governor in Chennai, things, however, are moving fast and the opposing sides have squared off, even as the march to the battlefield was punctuated by dramatic scenes.

Acting governor Vidyasagar Rao reached Chennai yesterday and met the two main players – deposed chief minister O Panneerselvam at 5 pm and the leader-elect VK Sasikala at 7.30 pm. Sasikala staked claim to form the government after submitting a list of around 130 MLAs.

It all depends on what decision the governor takes and the time he takes to arrive at a decision can also make or mar prospects of rival claimants to chief ministership.

If Rao waits for long, it is expected to help Panneerselvam draw more converts to his side. OPS did manage to add a few significant names to his ranks today.