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TN potboiler continues, all eyes on Governor

There seems to be no end to ongoing power tussle in Tamil Nadu's ruling party. AIADMK General Secretary VK Sasikala on Wednesday appeared to be having a majority of MLAs with her, a day after the revolt by Chief Minister O Panneerselvam who claimed that they will back him in the trial of strength in Tamil Nadu Assembly.

However, her wait to get sworn-in as chief minister was far from ending with Governor Vidyasagar Rao expected to arrive in Chennai on Thursday.

After the midnight drama, Sasikala called a meeting of party MLAs at the party headquarters in a show of strength Wednesday morning and later herded them in buses to an undisclosed destination in a bid to keep the flock together. There were unconfirmed reports that AIADMK would even parade the MLAs before the President if the Governor delays the swearing-in of Sasikala.

In an act of defiance, Panneerselvam said an inquiry commission under a sitting Supreme Court judge will be set up to probe the "doubts" surrounding the health condition and demise of Jayalalithaa.

Addressing the legislators, Sasikala, who had sacked Panneerselvam from the post of treasurer Tuesday night, launched a no-holds-barred attack on him, saying he had betrayed the party and "fully merged" with DMK which Jayalalithaa had fought all her life.

She claimed she had got wind of his moves a few days ago itself and asserted that the party remains united and will not be cowed down by such threats.

Accusing arch rival DMK of trying to destabilise the party, Sasikala said "betrayal" will never win in the AIADMK and that no one will be able to divide the party. Panneerselvam, who was chosen by Jayalalithaa as a stop-gap chief minister when she had to quit twice due to adverse court verdicts, on Wednesday maintained that he enjoyed the support of a majority of MLAs and would prove it on the floor of the house at an appropriate time.

"The Ministers and MLAs who are now with the other side will soon realise the reality and the current extraordinary situation will change," he said, an apparent reference to the ministers rallying behind Sasikala. Panneerselvam also dismissed accusation by Sasikala that he was colluding with DMK and by others that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP were backing him.

He said he was in touch with no one and that he did not need the support of either DMK or BJP.

The Chief Minister said the stand he has taken enjoyed wide public support as the people want a "good and deserving" person on the post. Lok Sabha Deputy Speaker M Thambidurai rejected Panneerselvam's claims and said that the party had all the 134 MLAs with it.
"We are united. There is no dispute or difference," he said.

On his part, DMK Working President MK Stalin said his party had nothing to with "internal squabbles" in AIADMK. AIADMK spokesperson claimed 131 MLAs attended Wednesday's meeting chaired by Sasikala.

The caretaker Chief Minister had on Tuesday claimed he was forced to resign from the post to pave the way for Sasikala.

Meanwhile, Congress alleged that BJP is trying to fish in troubled waters of Tamil Nadu and instructing the Governor to not go to the state. However, Union Minister Venkaiah Naidu asserted that Centre or BJP has no role in "internal matters" of AIADMK and that the Governor will take a decision in line with the Constitution to resolve the issue.
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