Can Tamil Nadu governor resolve the Sasikala-Panneerselvam power tussle?

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Chennai: Amid the dramatic turn of events in Tamil Nadu politics over the last few days, governor (additional charge) C. Vidyasagar Rao is set to return to Chennai on Thursday afternoon after staying away from the state despite the deepening crisis within the ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK).

Ahead of the governor’s arrival, chief secretary Girija Vaidhyanathan and Tamil Nadu director general of police (DGP) T.K. Rajendran held discussions at Tamil Nadu chief minister O. Panneerselvam’s residence on Thursday morning.

The governor’s presence in Tamil Nadu is critical with chief minister Panneerselvam claiming he was forced to resign after Sasikala, who was elected as the leader of legislature party on Sunday, was all set to take over as the next chief minister. After the revelations by Panneerselvam on Tuesday night, confusion has prevailed, leading to a political crisis that needs to resolved by governor Rao.

A meeting of AIADMK legislators, chaired by party general secretary V.K. Sasikala, was held on Wednesday. The party said that 130 of its 135 MLAs turned up, claiming that there was significant support for the newly-anointed leader.

The AIADMK MLAs, who attended the meeting, were packed off in buses to hotels and resorts on the outskirts of Chennai, presumably to prevent horse-trading.

After the governor’s schedule to Chennai was known, the Sasikala camp dropped its plan of flying AIADMK legislators to New Delhi and parade them at the Rashtrapati Bhavan to demonstrate her strength.

“People representatives are held as hostages and this is an act of disrespecting the democracy,” said opposition leader and working president of Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) M.K. Stalin.

Meanwhile, Panneerselvam has written to Bank of India, claiming that he is the treasurer of the AIADMK, and the bank should not do any transaction without his knowledge.

A couple of hours after Panneerselvam spoke up against Sasikala, he was removed from the party’s treasurer post.

However, Panneerselvam in his letter to the chief manager of Bank of India said that the general secretary was not elected as per the by-laws of the AIADMK and hence, doesn’t have the right to sack any member.

Following the demise of former chief minister J. Jayalalithaa on 5 December, the general secretary’s post fell vacant and the appointment “is yet to filled in accordance with the Rule 20 sub clause 2 of the party by-laws”.

Sasikala, who was appointed as the general secretary of the AIADMK on 31 December, was elected as the legislature leader of the AIADMK on 5 February, following which Panneerselvam resigned as the chief minister, thus paving way for Saikala to take over as the head of the state.

On Tuesday night, after spending nearly 40 minutes meditating in front of the Jayalalithaa’s memorial, Panneerselvam said, “I was forced to resign from the chief minister’s post.”

For the first time in his political career, Panneerselvam let his voice be heard during a 50-minute speech which was a crafted assault on Sasikala and his AIADMK colleagues.

Following this, there has been a crisis in the state and analysts have said that by staying away from Tamil Nadu, governor Rao has delayed the constitutional process.