The Tamil Nadu Chief Minister promised to remain a loyal AIADMK worker, following in the footsteps of Jayalalithaa till the end.
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam, who on Tuesday night turned the country’s attention on himself by meditating at Jayalalithaa’s memorial and going all out against AIADMK general secretary V.K. Sasikala, is a tired man. One can empathise with him as he has been constantly meeting his supporters and fielding questions from the media ever since he chose to break his silence over the succession drama that is currently playing out in the party. In this exclusive interview with Dennis S. Jesudasan and T.K. Rohit, he regrets that he had not been allowed to see his political mentor during the 75 days that she was in hospital. He promised to remain a loyal AIADMK worker, following in the footsteps of Jayalalithaa till the end. Excerpts:
What prompted you to speak out against the party leadership now?
I was patient all these days. But if I had remained patient forever, a situation would have arisen where the people of the country would not have known certain truths. When I resigned as Chief Minister, it was portrayed badly and drew criticism for the wrong reasons. This is why I revealed the truth (about my resignation). Those in the party cannot refute it.
The Sasikala camp says it has the support of 131 MLAs. But you have said you will win if there is a floor test…
Since last night, they (party men) are coming here one after another and are expressing their views and opinions. This will continue. As a continuation of that, when the Assembly convenes, I will prove my majority on the floor of the House. I am confident.
Will you float a new party if you are expelled from the AIADMK?
I am a grass-root worker of the AIADMK. I will continue to be in the AIADMK till the end. Amma (Jayalalithaa) has said several times in many public meetings that even after a hundred years and even after a thousand years, the AIADMK will be there and will be in the government. Amma had taken efforts for that… I will never do anything that will bring disrepute to the party or the government.
Are you aware of any will left behind by Jayalalithaa?
I remained only a loyal servant of Amma and carried out only those tasks assigned to me. I never took the effort to try and find out any other information (about Jayalalithaa).
My friends and colleagues know this. It is the duty of the servant to only carry out the orders of the ruler; the servant cannot advise the ruler.
There are other persons to take care of those tasks. I have carried out her political will to the best of my ability and will continue to do so.
What if claims are made in the future that Jayalalithaa has left behind a will nominating Ms. Sasikala as the inheritor of her properties or political legacy?
If Amma had indeed written a will, she would have done it only with the aid of legal experts. Only those legal experts can talk about the authenticity of the will. If such a situation arises, all have to accept it.
You have now made comments against Ms. Sasikala. But when AIADMK MLAs praised her in the Assembly, you defended them in the House.
As a disciplined party, which obeys the leadership, in our speeches we would thank Amma. And now, since she (Ms. Sasikala) is the party general secretary, we thanked her too.
Were you allowed to meet Jayalalithaa during the days she was in hospital?
No, I didn’t get the chance to visit her in the hospital. That disappointment will remain with me for life.
You have said you spoke out only 10 per cent of your thoughts. What about the other 90 per cent?
I have buried it within me. I don’t want to pour it out.
Did you face any interference from Ms. Sasikala’s relatives in running the government?
Not in the last two months when I was the Chief Minister.
There is an opinion that you were side-lined even by Jayalalithaa…
Amma never sidelined me.
Who organised the press meet by London-based Dr. Richard Beale on Monday?
I was one of those who made arrangements for it.
Ms. Sasikala claimed in a TV interview today that she would 100% become the Chief Minister. What are your views?
It’s for people to decide