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Governor to reach Chennai amid Panneerselvam-Sasikala war

Tamil Nadu Governor C. Vidyasagar Rao is set to reach here on Thursday amid a bitter war between AIADMK General Secretary V.K. Sasikala and acting Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam, both of whom claimed majority support in the ruling party.

Maharashtra Governor Rao, who holds additional charge of Tamil Nadu, would be in Chennai on Thursday afternoon, official sources in Mumbai said.

Amid criticism from Sasikala's backers that Rao was seemingly avoiding coming to Chennai, Information and Broadcasting Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu said Rao was studying the situation in the state.

Naidu denied speculation that the Modi government had a role to play in the political crisis in Tamil Nadu.

Panneerselvam, who on Tuesday night dramatically revolted against Sasikala and alleged he was forced to quit as Chief Minister on Sunday, said on Wednesday that he would prove his majority in the 234-seat assembly.

Addressing supporters at his residence, Panneerselvam said: "A government expected by you will be formed soon."

But Sasikala supporters said as many as 130 of the 134 AIADMK MLAs were with her, a long-time confidante of former Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa who died on December 5.

On Wednesday, Sasikala accused Panneerselvam of "betrayal" after he refused to back her plans to head the government. She was earlier elected by party legislators as their house leader.

On his part, Panneerselvam announced that a Supreme Court judge will head a Commission of Inquiry to probe Jayalalithaa's demise after a 75-day stay in hospital. He said there were many questions over the death.

The MLAs backing Sasikala were ferried to secret locations, party sources said, amid speculation that they may fly to New Delhi to be paraded before President Pranab Mukherjee.

Addressing AIADMK MLAs at the party headquarters, Sasikala accused Panneerselvam of covertly aligning with the DMK to undermine the ruling party.

"Nobody will believe that I forced him to resign as Chief Minister. Not the people, nor the (AIADMK) cadres.

"This is a deceitful plan of the DMK," she said. "For two months, Panneerselvam has been collaborating with opposition forces but I ignored all that."

Referring to his revolt of Tuesday night, Sasikala asked: "Why did he keep quiet all these days? Was he being backed by the DMK?

"I faced so many betrayals in the 33 years I have lived with Amma," she said, referring to the iconic Jayalalithaa. "I have overcome all those and we will overcome this one too. The AIADMK won't break, nor will I."

Panneerselvam said Sasikala, whom he called an interim General Secretary, had no right to sack him as the AIADMK Treasurer.

AIADMK's K. Manickam on Wednesday became the first party MLA to openly side with Panneerselvam.

"There is no need for a change in the Chief Minister's post," Manickam told IANS. He pointed that Jayalalithaa had chosen him as the acting Chief Minister twice in the past.

AIADMK leaders preferring anonymity told IANS that the mood among party cadres and the public was against Sasikala and that legislators and others may switch loyalties towards Panneerselvam over time.

Meanwhile, former AIADMK MP K.C. Palaniswamy said party activists would unleash a movement to retrieve the AIADMK headquarters, Jaya TV as well as the Poes Garden residence of Jayalalithaa from the "occupiers".

"Panneerselvam will become the Chief Minister again," Palaniswamy told IANS.
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