OPS to Sasikala: Let MLAs go home if they are free

CHENNAI: On a day when AIADMK general secretary VK Sasikala presented the MLAs in a press conference and claimed that they were free, Tamil Nadu chief minister O Panneerselvam on Sunday dared her to let the legislators return to their constituencies.

“Even today, a few of the MLAs contacted me. They told me that there are four goondas guarding each MLA. They are surrounded and tortured. They cannot get out,” he said while addressing reporters at his residence, moments after Sasikala’s press conference and her televised speech to party MLAs staying at Golden Bay Resorts near Mahabalipuram.

“Instead of shedding crocodile tears and claiming that they are free, she should let them go back to their homes,” he said.

When asked as to why he did not utilise his powers as the home minister of the state and enter the resort complex at Koovathur, Panneerselvam said, “There is an extraordinary situation that is already prevailing. Any such intervention would needlessly create problems. That is why I am remaining patient.”

Panneerselvam trolled Sasikala equating her ‘antics’ to that of Tamil film comedian Vadivelu. He said, “Will any person, male or female, refer to themselves as Singam (lioness)?” This is like the comedy scene where Vadivelu gets on a police jeep and announces that he is being taken to jail.”

Referring to the multiple press conferences held by Sasikala since his revolt at the Marina on Tuesday, Panneerselvam asked why Sasikala had been travelling back and forth to the Koovathur resort in the last two days.

“Amma (Jayalalithaa) was hospitalised for 75 days. All of us were at the hospital doorstep day and night. We were not allowed to see her. She was the only one who had access. Did she (Sasikala) speak to the media at least once then to clear the air about Amma’s health?”

Panneerselvam said he had “suffered torture” at the hands of Sasikala in the last 16 years since he was first made chief minister. “Amma should not be kind to anyone. She could not bear listening to Amma saying a few affectionate words to anyone,” he said. He added that Sasikala engineered dissent between Jayalalithaa and her loyalists over the years.

“Did she allow any of her well-wisher to get close to her? Everyone was kept away. I too faced such difficulties but I did not breathe a word about it. It was because Amma never had a critical word to say about me,” he said.

Elaborating his claims, Panneerselvam pointed out Jayalalithaa’s niece Deepa Jayakumar not being permitted to visit her aunt at the hospital . “Who are her (Jaya’s) blood relatives? Deepak (nephew) and Deepa. On the day that Amma died, that girl (Deepa) waited at Veda Nilayam from 12.30 to 6.30 am, but did she (Sasikala) allow her to meet Amma? Deepa wailed and cursed them asking why they were not letting her see her aunt even after she passed away,” said Panneerselvam.

When reporters asked him why he did not take up Deepa’s case with Sasikala, Panneerselvam’s reaction suggested that he was not in a position to do so.

“When she held a party MLAs meet, she sat on her own in a chair while I, the party’s legislature party leader, was asked to sit among the audience. You look back at the video footage in the last 16 years since I was first made CM by Amma. I have always been seated in the same row as her (Jaya),” he said.

He said that several MLAs called to ask him why he was putting up with such insults. “I told them to not speak about it with others as it would affect the party’s image. I have never wanted the party to be affected by me,” he said.

Panneerselvam said after Jayalalithaa allowed Sasikala back into her Poes Garden residence in 2012, four months after expelling her, the late party chief had instructed her party men to not interact with Sasikala.