At close to 12.30pm on Friday, three cars carrying 11 Tamil Nadu MLAs traversed across a dusty 2km stretch from the Golden Bay resort to the location where the media was forced to wait. The last two days have seen reporters attempting to come near the resort, only to be stopped by the MLAs' men.
The two women and nine male legislators had barely left their vehicles, when they all began to deliver lines from what seemed like the same script. These MLAs, are part of the legislators who have been 'kidnapped' and taken to the Golden Bay Resort, which is beyond Mahabalipuram.
Ahead of VK Sasikala’s possibly swearing in as Chief Minister, this purported action has come under severe criticism. O Panneerselvam, in his meeting with the Governor claimed that the MLAs were being held against their will. He further claimed that their signatures had been forged in the documents of support that Sasikala submitted.
The 11 MLAs who came out to address the media on Friday, however dismissed these allegations as a 'conspiracy'. "This is all lies. Nobody has been forced to stay here. We are staying here so that we can immediately meet the Governor if he calls us. Otherwise it will take too much time to come from our constituencies. We are all eating and sleeping very well. Nobody is fasting. We are always so busy. These three days have helped us relax and get to know each other. There are 128 MLAs inside," said South Tiruppur MLA Gunasekaran.
When asked about the government's claim in court that the MLAs were in a government hostel, he claimed, "Our family members are staying there. We even go visit them," he said hastily before hurrying away.
A voter from the Kunnam constituency had filed a habeas corpus petition with the court, claiming that his MLA has been missing ever since he left the AIADMK headquarters on Tuesday. Kunnam MLA Ramachandran was however furious when told about this. He claimed, "This is an attempt to destroy the party. We have not been held against our will. The opposition is meddling with us. Look, we even have our phones and we have been attending all calls from our constituency," he claims, holding his cell phone up.
The two women MLAs however admitted that they were unreachable on the phone. But here is the reason they gave the media, "Our numbers are in the public domain and we get calls at even two in the morning. It is complete mental agony. So, I switched off the phone," claims Krishnarayapuram MLA Geeta.
While their versions of the stay in Golden Bay seem to coincide and are carefully recited, these MLAs just can't seem to agree on the number of legislators inside the resort. Peramballur MLA Gunasekaran claimed that there were only 10 MLAs in the resort while Chillingham MLA Partiban said there were over 100. Ex-MLA Rathnasamy who came to visit the MLAs said that there were 130 of them in the resort. The lack of clarity on the number of MLAs present in the resort is perplexing to say the least.
With Panneerselvam now asking the DGP to probe this issue, the real number of MLAs who are holed up inside the luxurious resort is likely to be revealed soon.
Meanwhile, AIADMK MLA N Murugumaran of Kattumannarkoil of the Sasikala camp is at Golden Bay Resort. He told Thanthi TV that they want Sasikala to be the CM, and that they are not being kept against their wishes. Further, he blamed the DMK for spreading rumours and panic.
Another AIADMK MLA, from Perundurai Thoppu, ND Venkatachalam of the Sasikala camp spoke to Thanthi TV on the phone and said that we are not being kept against our will. “MLAs are not children to be kept against their will. We are not so naïve. We have been elected by the people,” he says.
With several habeas corpus petitions filed in the Madras High Court and questions being raised about the legislators, the MLAs met the media outside the resort where they are staying.
"MLAs cannot be kept hostage. Sasikala is treating us like how (late Chief Minister J.) Jayalalithaa treated us," said one of them, Murugumaran.
"We are not birds being kept in a cage," added another legislator.
They accused the DMK of spreading rumours that legislators backing Sasikala against acting Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam were being held hostage.
(With IANS inputs)