A day before the Supreme Court verdict in the disproportionate assets case, tempers were running high at Poes Garden. At Veda Nilayam, AIADMK General Secretary VK Sasikala was in a huddle with her trusted lieutenants, discussing what should be done in the event of a conviction.
At the same time, there was hectic activity at both government HQ Fort St George and 'Thenpannai', the official residence of the then acting Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu O Panneerselvam. The moment O Panneerselvam's cavalcade was put on alert for the acting Chief Minister to visit his office, there was panic in all quarters.
Ahead of the Chief Minister's visit, the Chief Secretary and DGP were in a meeting at Fort St. George over the situation unfolding at Golden Bay Resort in Koovathur. According to sources, the Chief Secretary and DGP were under tremendous pressure to initiate police action to ‚Äėrescue‚Äô the AIADMK MLAs allegedly being held hostage.
O Panneerselvam's camp was determined that the MLAs lodged at Golden Bay Resort should be evicted before or immediately after the SC verdict. Sources say that the Chief Minister's visit to his office was to discuss the plan of action, which was most likely, to storm into the resort to rescue the MLAs.
While OPS and his team were making their plan, they were unaware of Sasikala‚Äôs. In an unexpected move, Sasikala's team decided that she would stay at the Golden Bay Resort on Monday night. It appears that Sasikala's camp got a whiff of what was being planned by OPS. And with that one decision, it became dangerous for the police to attempt an eviction. OPS too had to cancel his visit.
What happened inside Golden Bay Resort
For three days in a row, AIADMK General Secretary Sasikala had reached out to the MLA's at the resort.
As usual, she was accompanied by her trusted circle, including her nephew TTV Dhinakaran, another nephew Vivek (Ilaivarasi‚Äôs son), Dr Venkatesh, Deepak (Jayalalithaa‚Äôs nephew) and a few members of her staff.
In the first two days, Sasikala was her usual self, aggressively telling MLAs that OPS was a cheat and reminding them of the consequences of leaving her team. The BJP and the DMK figured in every conversation, with much emphasis on how this was a planned political conspiracy.
But on Monday, her approach was different. Gone was the authoritative Sasikala who reminded MLAs that she had been their boss for years. Instead, there was an emotional Sasikala.
In her speech that was telecast on Jaya TV, she was heard telling MLAs that there was a conspiracy to destroy AIADMK. She spoke about the DA case and how it has haunted Jayalalithaa till her death.
For the very first time, MLAs got to see a different Sasikala. An MLA who was part of the meeting that night says, "She was down to earth and was chatting with us on unusual topics. She was recalling Amma and shared anecdotes with us. We have never seen her like that before. She was emotional, but at the same time she was not appearing weak. She was there to stay with us and boost our morale."
Sasikala had dinner with all the MLAs and she was also chatting with the women MLAs.
"The women MLAs were asking her about Jayalalithaa, and they were interested in knowing what Jayalalithaa used to do during her leisure time. Not many of us knew her likes and dislikes, so the MLAs asked many questions on her hobbies and interests. From Amma's love for sarees and watches, to her last days in hospital, Chinnamma discussed everything with us," an MLA tells TNM.
Another MLA says that during the interaction, she repeatedly said that OPS was with DMK and they would support him in the assembly. "She made one thing clear, that O Panneerselvam betrayed the AIADMK and was backed by the DMK. Her argument convinced some of us, and later all of us saw this in the Assembly too. When OPS entered the house, DMK members gave him a rousing welcome by thumping the benches. When MLA Arukutty came to the house, the DMK MLAs raised slogans calling him a 'Thanmana Singam'. DMK's Deputy Opposition Party leader was on his feet on the floor of the house asking the Assembly speaker to give Semmalai a chance to speak. Now we know what Chinnamma said was true."
According to another MLA, Sasikala wanted to dispel the speculation that her family has taken over the party. She promised that her family will not interfere in the government and that all she wanted was for the AIADMK government to remain in power.
Sources say that all hell broke loose around 8.30pm when everyone realised that Madurai MLA Saravanan, a staunch loyalist of O Panneerselvam, escaped from the resort. Sasikala was seething with anger and she pulled up all the top leaders for allowing this to happen. Another source confirmed that Edappadi Palaniswami and RB Udhaykumar got into an argument over MLA Saravanan's escape from the resort and both started blaming each other for the lax security.
After MLA Saravanan revealed to the media what was happening at the resort, Sasikala had a one-on-one meeting with all the ministers and issued instructions to ensure that the MLAs don't switch sides. The meeting went on till 1.30am, and all the ministers were waiting outside the room and were called inside one by one. Sources say that clear instructions were issued to all ministers to ensure that MLAs were kept in good humour.
The Jaya TV crew which accompanied Sasikala to the Golden Bay Resort was asked to be on alert the whole night, and specific instructions were issued to the crew members to place their cameras at a vantage point to record the movements of the inmates at the resort. The Jaya TV crew had drained three batteries by continuously rolling the camera to maintain vigil.
On the morning of February 14, no one saw Sasikala as she was in her room. The situation became tense at 10.40am as the SC convicted Sasikala, and a pall of gloom descended over the resort. The MLAs were asked to assemble at the conference hall and Sasikala's 'Plan B' was set into motion.
Even as the resort was taken over by the men in khakhi, Jaya TV announced that AIADMK legislators are in a meeting to elect the next Legislature Party Leader. Sasikala, in an emotional appeal, urged MLAs to be united to save the AIADMK and take forward Jayalalithaa's legacy.
"Edappadi Palaniswami was proposed as the CM and we all signed papers pledging our support for him,‚ÄĚ says another MLA, who didn‚Äôt want to be named.
Hours after the meeting, the police approached Sasikala to inform her about the SC verdict and urged her to surrender, and she replied that she is yet to receive the certified copy of the SC order and that her legal team is taking care of it.
Sasikala went into a last-minute huddle and issued instructions to the party seniors on what needs to be done in her absence. ‚ÄúAll the MLAs were waiting outside, when she saw us, she was in tears and it was emotional,‚ÄĚ an MLA said. Before leaving, her last piece of advice to the MLAs was, "Please be united for the sake of Amma.‚ÄĚ
In spite of being a convicted criminal, Sasikala seems to have convinced the MLAs to stay with her, and disregard the fact that indeed her family is calling the shots ‚Äď but will this go on forever?