The Sasikala gameplan for guilty verdict: Quickly nominate a new CM for TN

AIADMK’s strategy is to dissuade the governor from inviting Panneerselvam to take a floor test

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The Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld a trial court order finding All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam general secretary VK Sasikala guilty in an illegal wealth case that dates back two decades. The verdict, which will mean Sasikala going back to jail and being debarred from public office for nearly a decade, upends political calculations at a time when she is caught in a tussle with interim chief minister O Panneerselvam for control of the party and the government.
A bench of Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghose and Justice Amatava Roy upheld the trial court judgment in which Sasikala and the late Jayalalithaa were found guilty of amassing over Rs 63 crores in assets disproportionate to their known sources of income during the latter’s tenure as chief minister between 1991 and 1996. The proceedings against Jayalalithaa would be abated because of her death on December 5. BREAKING NEWS In 2014, a trial court in Bengaluru – where the proceedings were moved on the Supreme Court’s orders – had found Jayalalithaa and Sasikala guilty along with the latter’s relatives Ilavarasi and Sudhakaran, and sentenced them to four years imprisonment. The conviction had forced Jayalalithaa to step down as chief minister under rules disqualifying convicted politicians from holding office or contesting elections. But the following year, the Karnataka High Court had acquitted all of them. The Karnataka government, which is the prosecutor in the case, had appealed in the Supreme Court, which will decide Sasikala’s fate at 10.30 am on Tuesday.

Officials of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam told Scroll.in that strategies “for all possible scenarios” had been put in place before the verdict. Sasikala spent the night at the Golden Bay Resorts in Kancheepuram, where 128 MLAs owing allegiance to her have been staying for the past five days. Panneerselvam – who had stepped down as chief minister to make way for Sasikala on February 5, only to rebel against her two days later – has alleged that the MLAs are being held there against their will. He has also said he was coerced into resigning and has challenged Sasikala’s election as leader of the AIADMK’s legislative party by petitioning the governor, Vidyasagar Rao. Since then, at least eight MLAs and 11 parliamentarians have shifted to the Panneerselvam faction.

The plan for a potential conviction on Tuesday – making her ineligible to become chief minister – was to have the MLAs on her side elect a new leader of the legislative party nominated by her. Senior leader KA Sengotaiyan has emerged as the frontrunner in such a scenario.

Sasikala’s plans

Sensing the growing support for Panneerselvam in the party, Sasikala made an emotional appeal to MLAs on Sunday, blaming misogyny in Tamil Nadu politics for the attacks on her. Dragging the Union government into the mess indirectly, she said there were forces out to destroy the AIADMK. “But let me assure you, from Chennai to Delhi, there is no one capable of shaking this party,” she said, adding that Panneerselvam was working in collusion with the opposition Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam.

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