It beats any mystery novel for its unexpected turns and plot expansion. Capping a late evening of political drama — that included a 50-minute silent sit-in at the Jayalalithaa memorial on Marina beach — former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister O Panneerselvam emerged battle-ready late Tuesday night to reveal details about what happened at the Apollo hospital as the late CM lay ill.
His calm meditation at the memorial, decked with flowers, was only the beginning of the political cyclone that was about to hit Tamil Nadu overnight.
Panneerselvam said "Amma's soul" had asked him to reach the truth to the people of the state and, driven by his conscience, he decided to break his silence about the sequence of events that followed Jayalalithaa's illness, and the subsequent elevation of VK Sasikala to the post of general secretary.
This has been translated by the New Indian Express from his speech in Tamil late last night.
"Amma was admitted to Apollo hospital and her condition worsened after 70 days. They (Sasikala and her family) came to me and said we have the duty to protect the party and government. I told them that Amma is under treatment. In (Jaya's absence) alternate arrangements should be made for general secretary and chief minister posts. They asked me to take over as chief minister and said Madhusudanan will become the general secretary. I did not accept that," the former CM is quoted as saying by the New Indian Express.
Panneerselvam said he was offered the CM's post twice by Jayalalithaa but he had declined. When Sasikala and her ilk kept insisting, even as Jayalalithaa's condition worsened, saying that if someone else is chosen for the post it will bring ill-repute to the party, he was forced to accept.
"Within two-three days, Health Minister Vijaya Baskar met me. Sasikala's brother Divakaran had told him that he wished to take her sister Sasikala to their native place. When I enquired further, he revealed that Divakaran and others wished to make Sasikala the general secretary. Since this was contrary to the earlier choice, Madhusudanan, I consulted with senior ministers at my residence. They also agreed to the idea of making Sasikala the general secretary. Later, general council elected her to the post," he said.
He went on to elaborate how his prompt response averted three crises—cyclone Vardah, a drinking water problem and the Jallikattu protests.
Panneerselvam said the Deputy Speaker of Lok Sabha, M Thambidurai, wanted to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi with 50 of his party MPs. Panneerselvam brought this to the notice of Sasikala. Soon after, Revenue Minister RB Udhayakumar made a public statement that the post of general secretary and chief minister should be both held by Sasikala. It did not go down well with OP, who brought it to Sasikala's notice. He was told that he was censured for his speech.
Panneerselvam also claimed that he was not allowed to meet Jaya once even after visiting the hospital daily. In last night's unexpected and explosive revolt, he also claimed that he was forced to step down as chief minister by Sasikala and members of her family.
It's a crisis of unprecedented proportions, and Panneerselvam's outburst changes the course of the politics in the state. He is now effectively the caretaker chief minister of the state till Sasikala is sworn in, and according to reports, Governor C Vidyasagar Rao is in no hurry to respond immediately to Sasikala's claim.
Government sources told Times of India that "preparations for the ceremony were in full swing at the centenary auditorium of the University of Madras. Now the situation has changed." Meanwhile Sasikala has alleged that the rival DMK was behind Panneerselvam's outburst.
His followers are thrilled.
Writing in Firstpost, TS Sudhir reported that scores of supporters thronged Panneerselvam's residence on Greenways Road in Chennai and complimented him for showing spine. "Anything that starts at the Marina, will always be successful," said a supporter.
The course of today will determine which way the wind will blow.
Also on HuffPost