On Tuesday night, after sitting on a samadhi at Jayalalithaa memorial at Marina beach for about 50 minutes, Chief Minister O Panneerselvam broke his silence – for the first ever time in his political career.
What followed was a carefully crafted attack on his leader, AIADMK general secretary VK Sasikala, and his colleagues. Panneerselvam noted how reluctant he was to assume the position after Jaya’s death, cited instances where junior members in the cabinet undermined him – some backstabbed – and his performance as the chief minister in the last three months.
This is the English version of that speech:
“I came to Amma’s memorial as my conscience hurt me. I wish to put forth some truths before the people and cadre, because Amma’s soul asked me to do so. I am standing before you because of that.
“Amma was admitted to Apollo hospital and her condition worsened after 70 days. They [Sasikala and family, and their loyalista] came to me and said we have the duty to protect the party and government. I told them that Amma is under treatment…
“[In Jaya’s absence] alternate arrangements should be made for general secretary and chief minister posts. They asked me to take over as chief minister and said Madhusudanan will become the general secretary. I did not accept that.
“During the past, on two occasions, Amma had given the opportunity of becoming chief minister. It was enough for me. So I asked them to select a person who will be acceptable to the public for the post.
“However, they insisted, saying since Amma had chosen you for that post twice earlier, if we chose someone else for that post now, it would not augur well with the people. They would not accept that and ultimately, it would bring bad name to the party and government. There would be differences of opinion. Pondering over these points, I have accepted their request and became the chief minister.
“Within two-three days, Health Minister Vijaya Baskar met me. [Sasikala’s brother] Divakaran had told him that he wished to take her sister Sasikala to their native place. When I enquired further, he revealed that Divakaran and others wished to make Sasikala the general secretary. Since this was contrary to the earlier choice, Madhusudanan. I consulted with senior ministers at my residence. They also agreed to the idea of making Sasikala as the general secretary. Later, general council elected her to the post.
“I had decided to lead the government following Amma’s footsteps and was doing so. That’s when cyclone Vardah hit the coastal districts. But everything was set right within four days. The quick works brought good name to the government among the people. This has irritated them (Sasikala and family) to a great extent.
“After that, the drinking water problem cropped up. After consulting with officials, I met Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu and requested him to release water, which he promised to do in a phased manner. This also had brought good name to the Amma government.
“Later, the jallikattu protest took place. With a view to bring it to an end to the agitations, I urged the prime minister to promulgate an Ordinance. He agreed to extend support and assistance. I stayed there and promulgated the Ordinance. Then permanent legislation was enacted and president’s assent was received.
“After I had sought an appointment with PM, Deputy Speaker of Lok Sabha M Thambidurai also wanted to meet the PM with the 50 party MPs. However, the PM met only me. After returning to Chennai, I brought this to the notice ( of Sasikala). But there was no remedy.
“When Revenue Minister RB Udhayakumar openly said that the post of general secretary and chief minister should be held by Sasikala, I brought this to be notice of Sasikala and explained that because of this situation, the Governor may ask me to prove majority in the Assembly. That would create an unnecessary problem. I was told Udhayakumar was censured for his speech and promised that he would not do this again. Cooperation Minister Sellur K Raju came to my chamber and expressed his resentment over Udhayakumar’s remarks. But immediately after reaching (his native) Madurai, Raju also toed the line of Udhayakumar. Thambidurai and KA Sengottaiyan also followed suit.
“Pained at this, I convened ministers in my chamber and told them that the people and cadre are dissatisfied with what is happening. I reminded how hesitant I was to assume charge as the chief minister. I told them we should all lead the government in a responsible person, and requested them not to insult the office of the chief minister. I would tolerate any personal insults but not this kind of insults.
“At this stage, my mental peace was shattered and I shared it with some of the office bearers. They advised me to be patient. I replied I have been tolerant to the extent possible. Because of me, not even an iota of bad name should not come to the government. I did not publicise my pain, keeping in mind the image of the party.
“After visiting Ernavur to inspect the progress made in removal of spilled oil, I went to Poes Garden where all ministers were present. They said they were making arrnagements for electing Sasikala as the chief minister. I asked them what was the necessity to do so at this moment.
“However, they said already the MLAs were waiting at the party office and I should do the needful for making Sasikala as the general secretary as well as chief minister.
“I told them I don’t know about the MLAs meeting or what purpose it was convened. I asked them if it was dharma on their part to make such a demand after making all arrnagements? For about two hours, I argued with them.
“I reminded them I did not want to be the chief minister. And how I was belittled on many occasions after being that. When I said all these, no one said anything.
“But the leaders, holding my hands, pleaded with me to accept their demand. When I said I would like to visit the Amma’s samadhi, they did not let me go. Because of their pressure, I was forced to resign as chief minister.
“Someone chosen by the grassroot level cadre should be the general secretary; one acceptable to the people should be the chief minister. It need not be me… I am prepared to stand alone and fight for this, I am ready for it.”
[To a question] “I will continue [as the chief minister] of the public and party cadre wish so.”
Courtesy:New Indian Express