Tamil Nadu Governor favours ‘Wait and Watch’ on Sasikala

Tamil Nadu Governor C. Vidyasagar Rao has denied reports that he has sent his assessment of the political crisis in the state to the Centre. But sources said his likely strategy is now taking shape and Governor Rao is inclined to wait for a Supreme Court verdict in a corruption case against AIADMK chief VK Sasikala, before he invites her to form a government. The verdict is expected next week.

Governor Rao, the sources said, has gone through multiple court judgements and is studying provisions of the Constitution closely to help him make his decision, after Ms Sasikala staked claim to form a government on Thursday with the support, she said, of 129 of her party’s 134 legislators.

Ms Sasikala, who was former Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalalithaa’s close confidante, is not a legislator and will have to become one within six months if she is made chief minister. The Governor, the sources said, has to make sure that the person he invites to form government can win an election within that time and also provide a stable government to the state.

If she is found guilty of having, along with Ms Jayalalithaa, amassed wealth disproportionate to their known sources of income, Ms Sasikala will not be able hold public office or contest an election.

The Governor will reportedly consider while taking his decision that O Panneerselvam has been asked to continue as interim chief minister after he resigned earlier this week and so there is no vaccuum that he has to fill urgently.

Mr Panneerselvam, who met the Governor about two hours before Ms Sasikala did on Thursday, told him that he was forced to resign at a party meeting held last Sunday. He has also alleged that legislators were forced to sign blank papers which Ms Sasikala misused to show that she has the support of most of the MLAs. Some signatures are forged, he further alleged.

Governor Rao is also said to be concerned about Mr Panneerselvam’s allegation that Ms Sasikala and her supporters are holding more than a 100 legislators “captive” after sequestering them in hotels and resorts in and around Chennai.

He met the state’s top bureaucrat and police chiefs on Friday and instructed them to ensure that the legislators haven’t been confined.

The Tamil Nadu case presents a unique set of constitutional issues with no precedent and so the Governor is bound to wait till he gets a clearer picture, sources said. He is confronted with a peculiar situation - in the documents submitted by Ms Sasikala to support her claim, Panneerselvam has proposed her name for the state’s next chief minister.

On Tuesday night, Pannnerselvam or OPS as he is known, meditated at J. Jayalaithaa’s memorial in Chennai before rebelling against Ms Sasikala. He has asked the Governor for five days to gather support of party legislators, many of who he claims are privately in touch with him.

But publicly, so far, only five AIADMK legislators have backed

Pannerselvam for chief minister. Also in his camp are E Madhusudhanan, who was sacked on Friday as the party’s number two and few other leaders.

Team Pannerselvam says it is the “real AIADMK,” and “sacked” Ms Sasikala yesterday. 

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