Chennai: As lawmakers of Tamil Nadu's ruling AIADMK were lodged in secret locations in and near Chennai last night to help VK Sasikala guard her flock and stake her claim as Chief Minister, online, a campaign to give them a good virtual shake has been on slow-build.
- Mr Paneerselvam claims he was forced to resign by Ms Sasikala
- Online, he asked public to vote on whether he should remain in office
- People asked to call MLAs, make their choice for chief minister known
A "Call your lawmaker" campaign has been started by actor Arvind Swamy, who has tweeted what he says are the names and phone numbers of the legislators, urging people to contact them and "express your opinion" strongly.
Shreemathy Mohan, an IT professional, told NDTV she "tried a whole bunch of numbers, but all the numbers are switched off or diverted."
Similar appeals on Twitter reflect growing support online for Mr Panneerselvam, a quiet, low profile politician who astonished his party on Tuesday by declaring that he was forced to resign as Chief Minister by Ms Sasikala. He said he is the chosen successor of J Jayalalithaa, who died in December. Then he went online and asked the public to vote on whether he should remain in office.
"The lawmakers are being protected from being trolled," said state minister Pandiarajan, who is with Ms Sasikala.
Ms Sasikala, whose political experience is limited to staying in former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa's shadow for decades, was chosen on Sunday by the party to take over as Chief Minister from Mr Panneerselvam. Since then, five of AIADMK's 134 legislators have left her side to support Mr Panneerselvam.
Today, the party's number two leader, E Madhusudhanan, pledged his support for the Chief Minister.
The numbers are technically with Ms Sasikala. But she could have a problem on her hands if Mr Panneerselvam taps into the online support for him - the only reflection so far of the public unease over the power transfer to "Chinamma" or the younger sister of "Amma", the name by which Jayalalithaa's supporters.
Also rooting for Mr Panneerselvam is a small online army comprising AIADMK cyber cell workers who were sacked by Ms Sasikala yesterday.
Among them is Hari Prabhakaran, who was joint secretary in the party's IT wing till Wednesday. "Previously I was handling AIADMK's Facebook page but now I have been thrown out," he said, explaining how he and his group are tweeting for the Call Your Lawmaker campaign.