POLITICS

Sasikala Rallies MLAs, Panneerselvam Claims They Will Support Him

There were unconfirmed reports that AIADMK would even parade the MLAs before the President if the Governor delays the swearing-in of Sasikala.

08/02/2017 7:12 PM IST | Updated 08/02/2017 10:57 PM IST
ARUN SANKAR via Getty Images

AIADMK General Secretary VK Sasikala today appeared to be having 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 still staying put in Mumbai and giving no indication of his plans to come here.

After the midnight rebellion, Sasikala called a meeting of party MLAs at the party headquarters in a show of strength this morning and later herded them in buses to 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 last 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 stop-gap chief minister when she had to quit twice due to adverse court verdicts, today maintained that he enjoyed support of majority of MLAs and would prove it on the floor of the house at an appropriate time.

"The Ministers and MLAs who area 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.

Former Speaker P H Pandian, who attacked Sasikala yesterday, and senior Rajya Sabha member Dr V Maitreyan today showed up at the Chief Minister's residence in a show of solidarity.

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 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 and accused Sasikala of making false allegations after failing to become chief minister through a "short cut". MORE SA TVS BN VSC

AIADMK spokesperson claimed 131 MLAs attended today's meeting chaired by Sasikala.

Referring to Panneerselvam's political career, Sasikala told the legislators he had been part of the AIADMK-Janaki (led by MGR's widow) that was against Jayalalithaa following the death of the founder MG Ramachandran, before switching sides.

Jayalalithaa had "forgiven" this and provided him with various opportunities, she added.

"Our rivals are showing their true face. We will prove our might to them. No one has the power or capacity to split or break us. I will solve the confusion arising in people's minds at the right time," she said.

The opposition so far unseen but emerging now was a proof that "certain developments our rivals don't desire are happening in the party," she said in an apparent reference to her elevation. "That is why there is this flutter. Neither AIADMK nor me will be cowed down by this," she said.

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

After her election as leader of legislature party on Sunday, Sasikala had claimed that Panneerselvam had pressed her to assume the post.

Sasikala today said she had noticed "Panneerselvam joining hands with DMK following their conversation in the Assembly," recently and added that she was duty bound to prevent the next course of action from happening.

She referred to the remark of Deputy DMK Leader Durai Murugan who had last week in the Assembly favoured Panneerselvam to continue as Chief Minister for the rest of the term of the current government till 2021.

"Panneerselvam not saying anything on this and his silence showed clearly that he had joined hands with DMK. His act had also infuriated the Ministers," she said.

"All these years, I have lived for Amma and would spend the rest of the life fulfilling her dreams," she said.

"For 33 years, how many happenings, how many shocks. I have faced the many betrayals along with Amma. We had won those, we will win this," she said and invoked MGR's legacy to face the situation with grit.

"Even if betrayal and rivalry join hands, we will defeat them," she said.

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.

"I must say it is extremely wrong, unconstitutional and patently illegal on the part of BJP and the Central government to fish in the troubled waters of Tamil Nadu," Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi said.

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.

As the political drama unfolded, AIADMK supporters from across the state thronged the residence of Panneerselvam to express solidarity with him.

Several cadres were seen visiting his house at Greenways Road, a prominent location in the city, where several Ministers and government officials stay, since last night.

They raised slogans hailing 'Amma' (Jayalalithaa) and vowed they will never call anyone as 'chinnamma' (referring to Sasikala).

Posters and placards with messages like "Save AIADMK party. Make OPS as CM," donned the area. Another poster read "with blessings of Amma, let's make OPS as the General Secretary."

Whenever there was an entry by a prominent person, the supporters would break into slogans "OPS vaazhga, OPS vaazhga" (long live OPS)."

Former Electricity Minister 'Natham' Viswanathan, actor and director K Bhagyaraj were among those who met Panneerselvam.

Asserting that there is more scope for banks to lower the lending rates, the Reserve Bank today virtually put the ball in the government's court to ensure better transmission of policy rate reductions by fast-tracking bank recapitalisation and NPA resolution.

"The environment for timely transmission of policy rates to banks' lending rates will be considerably improved" if non-performing assets are resolved more quickly and efficiently, recapitalisation is hastened, and small savings rates are adjusted by fully implementing a formula decided earlier, the RBI said.

As to the banks, "there is still scope for the lending rates to come down further because our policy rates came down by 175 basis points (since January 2015) and weighted average lending rates have come down only by 85-90 basis points", said Governor Urjit Patel, adding "I think there is scope for more transmission."

Lack of transmission is a prominent worry expressed by RBI in the past two years when it was in accommodative stance.

The government has been blaming the higher rates maintained by the RBI as well as the banks for the slowdown in credit offtake which has hurt the economy.

Patel made these remarks right after announcing a shift in the policy stance to 'neutral' from 'accommodative' today.

Even though a Rs 10,000-crore recapitalisation provision has been made in the Union Budget with an explicit commitment to put in more money, some experts feel it is a small amount given the need. Similarly, political compulsions continue to dominate the small savings interest rates, which force banks to keep deposit rates high.

On NPA resolution, the RBI today stressed the need to devote more capital and operationalise reform measures like the Bankruptcy Code, asserting that the NPA issue is a "twin balance sheet problem" covering both the banks and the corporates.

"I think the problem of NPAs in an absolute sense is quite large and I think it requires a significant recapitalisation of the banking system," the newly-appointed deputy governor Viral Acharya said.

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