As the political turmoil in Tamil Nadu intensifies, with both V K Sasikala and O Panneerselvam laying claim to the chief minister's seat, Sasikala appears to have an upper hand within the AIADMK party structure.
At least 120 MLAs attended the legislative party meeting convened by her on 8 February. The AIADMK has a total of 134 MLAs in the Tamil Nadu assembly. Some Sasikala supporters claimed that 129 MLAs were present at the meeting. There have also been reports that the MLAs supporting Sasikala have been gathered together and isolated from any contact. They were reportedly taken to some hotels in Chennai in buses and were not reachable on their phones.
The number of MLAs who reportedly attended the meeting appears to contradict Panneerselvam's claim, made earlier in the day, that he had the support of at least 50 MLAs. However, former speaker P H Pandian, Rajya Sabha MP V Maitreyan, and former minister K P Munusamy stood by Panneerselvam, even as many AIADMK office bearers gathered at the party headquarters to denounce him. "MGR's heir was Amma and Amma's heir is Chinnamma," said Tamil Nadu assembly's deputy speaker, Pollachi V Jayaraman.
Maitreyan claimed that Panneerselvam enjoyed popular support. "People of TN voted for Amma," he told the Times of India. "After OPS made a statement in Marina, the groundswell of support from the grassroots cadres and public at large is overwhelmingly in support of OPS".
Panneerselvam was the first to recommend Sasikala's name as the leader of the AIADMK legislative party but later said that he had done so under pressure and that he was ready to take back his resignation as the chief minister of Tamil Nadu.
Sasikala's political fate will also depend on the Supreme Court verdict in the disproportionate assets case against her that is likely to be delivered in the coming week.
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