Chennai, Feb 14 The Supreme Court on Tuesday dealt a huge blow to AIADMK General Secretary V.K. Sasikala by upholding her conviction for corruption but there was no end to the ugly war for power in Tamil Nadu.
Hours after the apex court ruling, Sasikala, as the party chief, axed acting Tamil Nadu Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam and 19 more leaders from the AIADMK. But Panneerselvam refused to give up.
The MLAs backing Sasikala — who wished to take over as Chief Minister before Panneerselvam revolted — and holed up at a resort near here also elected E. Palanisamy as their new legislature party leader.
Palanisamy, the Minister for Public Works, Highways and Minor Ports, lost no time in asking Governor C. Vidayasagar Rao to let him prove his majority in the assembly and form a government.
In New Delhi, the Supreme Court restored the earlier conviction of Sasikala, a long-time confidante of the late J. Jayalalithaa, and her two relatives, V.N. Sudhakaran and Elavarasi, for corruption.
Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghose and Justice Amitava Roy set aside a Karnataka High Court order acquitting the three and Jayalalithaa, who died on December 5.
Sasikala cannot contest elections for 10 years, including the four years she will be in jail. She was also fined Rs 10 crore.
The apex court told Sasikala and her relatives to surrender immediately to the trial court, which convicted them on September 27, 2014.
Justice Roy voiced deep concern over the “escalating menace of corruption in society”.
The four, Jayalalithaa included, were convicted for amassing assets disproportionate to known sources of income to the tune of Rs 66.65 crore when the former Chief Minister ruled Tamil Nadu in 1991-96.
The ruling set off celebrations in the Panneerselvam camp. His supporters burst firecrackers and danced outside his residence.
In a bid to win over the MLAs siding with Sasikala, Panneerselvam called the Supreme Court ruling “good news” and said “Amma” was still guiding the AIADMK and urged all legislators to unite.
“It is up to the MLAs to resolve the crisis. I urge everyone to forget the differences and unite,” he told his cheering supporters.
A fuming Sasikala, facing arrest, vowed to challenge the verdict.
She sacked from the AIADMK Panneerselvam and 19 other leaders on charges of acting against the party’s policies and principles.
They included School Education Minister K. Pandiarajan and former ministers C. Ponnaiyan, P.H. Pandian, Natham R. Viswanathan, K.P. Munusamy and P. Mohan. But the MLAs and MPs backing Panneerselvam were spared.
The opposition hailed the Supreme Court verdict too.
DMK Working President M.K. Stalin said: “Justice has been restored. Now the Governor should take steps to ensure a stable government in Tamil Nadu.”
Congress spokesperson Gopanna told IANS: “Justice has been delivered after 20 years.”
Amid reports that Panneerselvam supporters may reach the resort where pro-Sasikala MLAs are putting up, security was tightened at the venue.
The infighting in the AIADMK erupted after Jayalalithaa passed away and Sasikala was elected the ruling party’s General Secretary on February 5.
She was then chosen the leader of the AIADMK legislature party, paving the way for her to become the Chief Minister.
That is when Panneerselvam, who had been twice acting Chief Minister earlier, revolted and alleged that he was forced by Sasikala to resign. As of now, most MLAs are with Sasikala but many MPs have switched loyalty.