New Delhi: Is there a method in the madness being witnessed in Tamil Nadu politics? Is the BJP fishing in troubled waters in Chennai? Is there any invisible force that has been making the democratic institutions work in tandem with the powers that be to disable Sasikala in her strategy to grab power and properties that belonged to Jayalalithaa?
A line is certainly discernible if one looks at the series of developments that took place from the day J Jayalalithaa was taken to Apollo Hospitals in August last year. One can list the series of happenings for better understanding and draw one’s own conclusions.
1) Sasikala did not allow any visitor, including Chief Minister O Panneerselvam (OPS) and Union Minister M Venkaiah Naidu, to see Jayalalithaa at Apollo. Sasikala’s husband Natarajan, nephew Dinakaran and other members of the notorious ‘Mannargudi Mafia’ who were thrown out by Jayalalithaa had returned to her Poes Garden residence when she was at hospital.
2) After Jayalalithaa breathed her last, OPS was allowed by Sasikala to continue be the Chief Minister. He was given oath of office by acting Governor C Vidya Sagar Rao in a ceremony that was kept under wraps.
3) Sasikala imitates Jayalalithaa by emerging into the balcony of Poes Garden building just as the former Chief Minister used to do and waive briefly at the followers waiting on the roads and move back in a slow, dignified steps into the house. People started talking about Chinnamma in place of Amma who is no more.
4) Sasikala gets herself elected as General Secretary of AIADMK and sits in Jayalalithaa’s chair at the party office.
5) Sasikala manages to make OPS submit his resignation for the post of Chief Minister. OPS proposes her name as leader of AIADMK legislature party. She decides the date and time of her swearing-in as Chief Minister without consulting the acting Governor.
6) Governor Rao develops cold feet and stays out in Mumbai for four days when hectic political activity was going on in Chennai. Then he visits Delhi to attend a wedding, meets Home Minister Rajnath Singh and goes back to Mumbai. Sasikala and her supporters become restive. They start making comments against the Centre.
7) Income Tax sleuths raid the residences and offices of Sekhar Reddy, a contractor and a member of TTD, and his friends. The IT officials cease ₹ 100 crore of cash in ₹2,000 notes. Reddy, who is considered close to Sasikala, was taken into custody. The residences of Government Chief Secretary Rama Mohan Rao and his son were raided and incriminating documents were reportedly confiscated.
8) OPS goes to Marina beach and sits in meditation at Jayalalithaa’s memorial. After that he tells media persons that he was forced to give his resignation and he is prepared to take it back.
He expressed doubts about the role of Sasikala and her relatives in Jayalalithaa’s demise. He says a full- fledged probe is essential to establish truth
9) Sasikala organised a camp at a garden resort in the outskirts of Chennai where more than 120 AIADMK MLAs were lodged. The MLAs were made incommunicado by taking away their mobiles. Lok Sabha Deputy Speaker Thambi Dorai supports Sasikala Group.
10) Governor Rao returns to Chennai. The EC disputed the election of Sasikala as General Secretary of the party since it was not in accordance with the party constitution. Governor meets OPS and then Sasikala. OPS requests the Governor to give him an opportunity to withdraw his resignation and time to prove his majority. Allegations of FERA (Foreign Exchange Regulation Act) violation levelled against Dinakaran, a nephew of Sasikala. Governor decides to invite Sasikala faction to form Government.
11) The Supreme Court of India takes up a pending case of Disproportionate Assets against Jayalalithaa and Sasikala. SC pronounces Sasikala guilty and sentences her for four years of imprisonment. The apex court does not give its pronouncement on Jayalalithaa since she is no more.
12) Her hopes to take over the administration along with the party, a la Jayalalithaa, dashed, Sasikala goes for Plan-B and gets E Palani Swamy (EPS) nominated as leader of AIADMK legislature party. Governor Rao administers oath to EPS and al the ministers that were there in Jaya’s Cabinet except OPS. EPS was given ten days to prove his majority on the floor of the House. The Chief Ministers offers to move confidence motion much earlier than the deadline.
13) Madhusudanan, chairman of the party’s presidium, crosses to OPS camp with a couple of MLSs who escaped from the resort. Some more MLAs and MPs declare their allegiance to OPS. But Sasikala has large number of the MLAs who constitute a majority in the Assembly.
14) Sasikala appoints her nephew Dinakaran as Deputy General Secretary of the party before going to Bengaluru jail. OPS objects. But the official group headed by EPS accepts.
15) EPS wins confidence vote without any difficulty. OPS could not muster numbers beyond single digit. But there was a public disapproval and anger that was perceptible. OPS is seen as a genuine successor to Jayalalithaa whom the founder of the party trusted. Film celebrity Kamal Hassan makes no bones about his opposition to Sasikala faction and support to OPS.
16) The EC announced by-election schedule for RK Puram constituency in the city which has fallen vacant on account of Jayalalithaa’s death. The polling was scheduled on April 12. The EPS faction, which is called AIADMK ( Amma) fields Dinakaran as its candidate. Madhusudansn files his nomination as a candidate sponsored by OPS who is heading the faction called AIADMK (Purutchi Talaivi). Jayalalithaa’s niece Deepa Jayakumar also enters the fray. She planned to launch a party but gave up the idea when her brother opposed it. She canvasses in the name of Jayalalithaa. The Income Tax authorities conduct raids and confiscate cash being distributed to the voters. Tamil Nadu Health Minister Vijaya Kumar’s residence and office were searched. ₹ 5 crore were found with the Minister. A total of ₹ 100 crore were found in the hands of various operators who were distributing money at the rate of ₹4,000 per voter. The EC had concluded that Dinakaran has bribed about 80 percent of the RK Nagar’s voters. The election was postponed.
17) The EC was about to give its decision on the election symbol of two leaves when a broker by name Sukhesh Chandrashekhar of Bengaluru origin was taken into custody by the police in a 5-Star hotel in South Delhi with a cash amounting to ₹1.3 crore. Sukhesh has reportedly told the police that the money was given by Dinakaran as part of a deal to bribe the EC and get two leaves symbol for him. The police have later confirmed that the actual amount agreed upon was ₹ 50 crore and they have also identified an official of the EC who was supposed to have been bribed. The arrest and prosecution of Dinakaran is on the cards.
18) Dinakaran has gone to Bengaluru on Tuesday to meet his aunt Sasikala who has been languishing in jail. He has not been allowed to meet her. But in Chennai, a revolt by Sasikala loyalists was brewing back home. There were reports on Monday itself suggesting that the Chief Minister and his Cabinet colleagues were keen on dislodging the tainted duo of Sasikala and Dinakaran from their heads and reconstitute the party by purging the aunt and nephew. There were moves afoot for a dialogue between EPS and OPS so that a merger can take place and the party is saved and the election symbol restored. A Cabinet Inister has told the media that talks are going on in this direction. A committee will constituted for a constructed discussion.
19) OPS addresses a media conference on Tuesday and lays two conditions for merger talk. The first condition was that Sasikala and Dinakaran should be dumped altogether. The second condition was to get the death of Jayalalithaa thoroughly probed.
20) Dinakaran comes up with a formula according to which he would quit from the post of Deputy General Secretary of the party and Sasikala would continue to be the party chief. He was particular that there should be no compromise with OPS.
21)The Cabinet members and other important leaders of the ruling group meet under the chairmanship of EPS for three hours. The official group accepts the first condition of OPS, that is to oust Sasikala and Dinakaran from the party. The second condition should not be difficult to accept.
22) After a lookout notice was issued on Wednesday to prevent Dinakaran from leaving the country, he alleged that everything is part of the larger conspiracy by the BJP. He said he would abide by the decisions taken by the party.