Suspense Over Sasikala Swearing-in

Chennai:  There are doubts about the time, if not date, of swearing-in by AIADMK General Secretary Sasikala Natarajan as chief minister of Tamil Nadu. Earlier it was said that she would be taking the oath of office at 8.45 am on Tuesday, the 7th. However, Governor Ch Vidyasagara Rao has not responded to the letter submitted by the chief secretary of TN government requesting him to administer the oath. The Chief Secretary is yet to get an order from Raj Bhavan. The Governor is scheduled to visit Coimbatore on Tuesday. It is not known if he would adjust his visit according the oath taking schedule that is being talked about. Otherwise, the swearing-in would be in the evening. The Governor has the constitutional powers to delay the ceremony or suggest to Sasikala that she should wait for the verdict of the apex court in the disproportionate assets case in which she is an accused along with former chief minister J Jayalalithaa.

The BJP has criticized Sasikala for the undue haste in which she is seeking to take over the administration in Tamil Nadu. S Gurumurthy, the ideologue of RSS, has opposed the move by Sasikala to grab the reins from O Pannerselvam. P Chidambaram, former union finance minister, also castigated her. Muralidhar Rao, the national general secretary of the BJP, has expressed concern at the growing uncertainty in TN politics. There has been a massive opposition from the common people throughout Tamil Nadu to the prospect of Sasikala becoming chief minister. There is a public interest litigation filed by Senthil Kumar against Sasikala in Supreme Court which is likely to hear it on Tuesday.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi who visited Chennai in the wake of Jayalalithaa’s death appeared to be in favour of continuing O Panneerselvam as chief minister. His body language on that particular occasion was clearly supporting OPS. There were raids by Income Tax sleuths soon after Jayalalithaa’s death two months ago in which Rammohan Rao, the then chief secretary of the State government was accused of possessing illegal money. The raids on the houses and offices of Sekhar Reddy and others who were supposed to be close to Sasikala. But if the Governor delays the swearing-in, it will be a constitutional impropriety on his part. Once the legislature party of the AIADMK had elected Sasikala as its leader and the chief secretary to the government has requested the Governor to administer the oath of office, he has no option other than giving the oath. Prof Subramanya  Swamy, MP, has said it would be blunder on the part of Governor Ch Vidyasagara Rao not to go to Chennai to administer the oath to Sasikala. Ironically, it was Dr Swamy who complained against Jayalalithaa and Sasikala on disproportionate assets basing on which a case was registered and the courts had heard the arguments and given the judgments.

The Karnataka High Court had declared Sasikala innocent in the case of disproportionate assets. If the SC confirms the HC judgment, there will be no problem for Sasikala. If the apex court reverses the Karnataka High Court judgment, Sasikala would be in deep trouble. If she is found guilty under prevention of corruption Act, she cannot even contest in the elections. The third option is for the SC to send it back to the high court or/and order re-investigation into the allegations. In that case, Sasikala can continue in office.  However, the AIADMK leaders and workers are going ahead with the preparations for the swearing-in ceremony at the Madras University Hall tomorrow morning. There are no signs of celebrations yet.

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