Governor's guarded approach in Tamil Nadu held sway

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Notwithstanding her conviction in the disproportionae assets case, the all powerful general secretary of the AIADMK V K Sasikala is backseat driving her nominee, chief minister Edappadi K Palanisamy. Her firm and latest directive is to celebrate the birthday of the late J Jayalalithaa today, (February 24) with pomp and grandeur. Needless to say there might be more doles along with special welfare schemes for the people of Tamil Nadu. For all practical intents and purposes Palanisamy is a puppet with Sasikala pulling all the strings. Her nephew T T V Dinakaran was quickly appointed deputy general secretary of the AIADMK to keep a close watch on Palanisamy, a loyalist of Jayalalithaa as well, so that he does not become overambitious or too big for his boots. 

The talk in the Dravidian party is that there are efforts at reconciliation within the party ranks to accept what is being described as ""dual leadership"".  When O Paneerselvam was at the helm of affairs and had to resign under duress after Sasikala's elevation as AIADMK general secretary, Lok Sabha Deputy Speaker M Thambidurai and some others demanded that the reins of the party and the government must remain with one and the same person. However, differences surfaced on this important issue as others argued there was nothing in the rule book that the same person should be AIADMK leader and chief minister. In the prevailing circumstances the party is unlikely to press for a unified leader -- being party general secretary as well as the chief minister as evidenced during Jayalalithaa's time. 

The stage is being set for Dinakaran to emerge as the supreme leader of the AIADMK. There is nothing in the party rule book for the same person being the general secretary as well as the chief minister. However, in the case of M G Ramachandran, the founder of the AIADMK and his protege Jayalalithaa it was unanimously demanded by partymen that they should be heading the party along with being the chief minister as well. That is being changed now because of an extraordinary situation arising with Sasikala's conviction in the disproportionate assets case barring her from holding public office or becoming chief minister for a decade. Therefore, the party has been compelled to adopt a different approach without pressing for a unified leadership. 

Then,  there is also the question whether the AIADMK would press for the disqualification of the dozen MLAs who voted against the motion of confidence in the assembly last Saturday. There is unrest in the party leading to a vertical divide. Though those with Paneerselvam did not follow the whip, it is believed the anti-defection law would not apply as they did not vote for another party. 

The party leadership will take a decision after consulting experts. If legislators are disqualified it would lead to by-elections in constituencies represented by them in addition to the by-election in Radhakrishnan Nagar in Chennai represented by Jayalalithaa. Public unrest against the AIADMK is discernible. If the party disqualifies these MLAs, it will be difficult for the AiADMK to win these seats. 

In case it presses for disqualification of these MLAs and loses those constituencies to arch rival DMK whose number will go up in the assembly posing a challeng to AIADMK's majority in the House. The party has expelled only two of them including Paneerselvam and the party leadership might not be averse to ""pardoning"" the rest.

The AIADMK might like to postpone the civic elections till the anger among the people subsides. There is another issue confronting Sasikala. If she fails to cough up the fine of Rs 10 crores she will have to spend another 13 months in jail. The rules of the assembly does not allow a conscience or a secret ballot as demanded by the opposition and Paneerselvam. Meanwhile, following the complaints from Paneerselvam and leader of the opposition M K Stalin about the bedlam in the assembly when the vote of confidence was taken up and decided last week on February 18, Governor C Vidyasagar Rao sought a factual report from the Secretary of the Assembly. On his part the Governor played his part guardedly consulting constitutional experts. He refused to take any decision hastily or get hussled or pressurised. It saved him the ignominy if he had summarily invited Sasikala and admintered the oath of office and secrecy as the chief minister. 

He preferred to bide his time till the Supreme Court gave its order on February 21. The Governor came up trumps in hind sight. The Attorney General suggested having a composite test on the floor of the House which might have been precedent setting but the Governor remained circumspect and cautious not to compound matters. The Palanisamy faction of the AIADMK had the numbers and provided a list to the Governor. Paneerselvam lost out as he did not have sufficient numbers. He has, however, vowed to fight back which might be an exercise in futility.

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