It was an announcement considered inevitable; yet, in the hours leading up to Sasikala’s ascension, there was little clarity.

No fireworks just fanfare as Sasikala starts on the final stretch for CMs thronePTI
news Politics Sunday, February 05, 2017 - 19:23

The mood was thick with anticipation on an otherwise lazy Sunday.

Like practiced perfection, it was the police barricades and ropes that came out first along Cathedral Road and Binny Road at around 9:30am.

And as the hours ticked away, the build-up to the AIADMK MLA meet became apparent. The party flags were out on the dividers, the police trickled in and then the faithful - men and women brought in maxi-van loads - lined the roads leading from Poes Garden to Avvai Shanmugam Salai.

At the AIADMK party office, MLAs walked in one-by-one from around 11am onwards. But all eyes were on Veda Nilayam, the residence of late Chief Minister Jayalalithaa, where her confidante and AIADMK supremo VK Sasikala continues to reside.

The waiting media weighed in on the debate: "Will she? Won't she? Is the timing right? it's been only two months (to the day) since Jayalalithaa passed away.”

“With Supreme Court orders reserved in the DA case, will she hold off her decision?”

“What about Chief Minister O Panneerselvam - will he give up the post, yet again, without a protest? Will the public sentiment be taken into account in her decision?"

And even as these questions were being asked by reporters on live TV, Tamil Nadu's cabinet ministers made a beeline to Veda Nilayam at 1pm. A meeting before a meeting.

Under the blazing Chennai sun, women supporters waved the two-leaves symbol. But there was still no clarity on whether VK Sasikala would in fact be announced as the Legislative Party Leader, the first step in becoming Chief Minister.

At 2:09pm, Panneerselvam drove into the AIADMK party headquarters as Chief Minister. But in less than 50 minutes, OPS announced his resignation to the party MLAs and proposed Sasikala's name as leader of the Legislature party.

While Jaya TV played Panneerselvam's sound byte on loop, the AIADMK functionaries, who had been standing outside for several hours, were no more the wiser. There were no celebratory fireworks or sloganeering.

Twenty minutes after Panneerselvam announced his resignation, at 3:09pm 'Chinamma' arrived at the AIADMK party office in the silver Toyota Landcruiser, that once belonged to her departed friend.

Waiting at the porch of the party office to greet the new legislative party leader were Panneerselvam, Lok Sabha Deputy Speaker M Thambidurai, PWD Minister Edapadi Palanisamy, TN Assembly Deputy Speaker Pollachi Jayaraman, Electricity Minister Thangamani, Rural Development Minister SP Velumani and former minister Valarmathi.

Dressed in the party colours, Sasikala made her way to the balcony, waving the party symbol to the cheering crowds that roared "Chinamma vazhga". Minutes later, she was chairing her first meeting as leader of the Legislature Party.

Unnoticed by many, Sasikala's nephews TTV Dinakaran and Dr Venkatesh, walked out of the AIADMK office beaming, even as the crowds had their eyes trained on the balcony waiting for 'Chinnamma'.

Image Courtesy: PTI

And as the meeting wrapped up in 40 minutes, it was Panneerselvam's visage that perhaps best described the mood of those outside the party office. Wearing a forced smile, OPS walked out yet again as a man, who was never allowed to settle into his throne.