Chennai: Hours after VK Sasikala's run for Chief Minister was brought to a skidding halt by the Supreme Court, which found her guilty of corruption, she has moved at breakneck speed to ensure she remains the show-runner of the ruling AIADMK in Tamil Nadu. Ms Sasikala was sentenced this morning to four years in prison - it's uncertain when she has to head to jail - and barred from contesting an election for 10 years. With an assertiveness that belies her political inexperience, she ensured that a loyalist, minister E Palanisamy, was elected the party's new leader, who met Governor C Vidyasagar Rao. Mr Palanisamy, a minister, will ask for the right to take a trust vote - if he wins, he will become Tamil Nadu's third Chief Minister in two months.
- Palanisamy elected new leader of AIADMK with Sasikala's blessing
- She was convicted of corruption, has to go to jail
- Palanisamy to meet Governor, ask for the right to take a trust vote
Sources said Ms Sasikala, 61, is unlikely to surrender or make herself available today for imprisonment because she has not yet received a copy of the lengthy court verdict.
The power play by Ms Sasikala was exercised at the Golden Bay Resort, a luxury hotel on the outskirts of Chennai, where, a week ago, nearly 125 lawmakers from her party were bused. Barring two, who say they "escaped", the others have not left the compound, signing letters to affirm they are not being held against their will. Last night, Ms Sasikala addressed them and then spent the night at the resort, where she has remained ever since.
By corralling the legislators at the resort, she has ensured minimal entry point for her rival, O Panneerselvam, who became Chief Minister in December, when the AIADMK'S matriarch, J Jayalalithaa, adored by lakhs of supporters as "Amma" or mother, and feared and respected by her party, died in hospital. OPS, as he is known, is not unfamiliar with filling in. Twice, when Ms Jayalalithaa had to take a hiatus from office on corruption charges, he was her stand-in, but he made his substitute status clear by refusing to use her office or chair in the legislature. In his pocket at all times, he carries her photo. OPS said that last week, after he had agreed to the party's decision to have Ms Sasikala replace him, "Amma's spirit contacted me" with the instruction to remain Chief Minister.
Ms Sasikala retaliated by bundling the vast majority of the AIADMK's state legislators into Golden Bay, making frequent visits to them, but disallowing their exit. Today, a team of representatives sent by OPS were unable to reach the resort with the police declaring the area off-limits to maintain law and order.
OPS has about 11 lawmakers on his side, along with 12 parliamentarians. The AIADMK, which expelled him, has about 125 -just eight more than it needs to win the vote. Though OPS has also asked for a trust vote, experts say that as the elected leader of the biggest party, it is Mr Palanisamy who will be asked by the Governor to prove his majority.