“Why did you have to make me sit in the CM’s chair and insult me?” asked Tamil Nadu’s caretaker Chief Minister O Panneerselvam, again and again.
On a day full of political drama in Tamil Nadu, OPS staged an act that topped them all. After landing up at late TN CM Jayalalithaa’s memorial at 9pm on Tuesday, OPS went on to meditate in silence for close to 45 minutes, before stepping out to address media persons who were gathered there.
Panneerselvam has always been known for his silence. He was the loyalist whom Amma picked to sit in the CM’s chair when she had to step down due to legal issues. He was the man who would smile through every twist and turn in the AIADMK’s politics.
But on Tuesday night, Panneerselvam broke his silence completely.
“When Amma was unwell, and her health had deteriorated around 70 days after she was hospitalised, I was approached and told that in case something untoward happens, I should be prepared because we have the responsibility to save the party and the government. I was in shock over Amma’s ill health, and I said I don’t want to think about any position when Amma was so unwell,” began OPS.
“But I was forced to accept,” Panneerselvam declared. The caretaker Chief Minister went on to establish that he was made to sit on the CM’s chair because any other choice would have raised eyebrows. Since he was the man chosen twice by Amma to be the CM when she was forced to step down, the people and the cadre would have accepted no one else, he was told.
But from that point on, OPS claims he faced a series of insults.
Panneerselvam claimed that while he was working hard to keep up the good name of the Amma government, the fact that he managed the state well irritated ‘them’.
So after he successfully managed the relief operations after cyclone Vardah, and managed to get drinking water for Tamil Nadu from Andhra, Panneerselvam was battling the jallikattu situation in the state.
And that’s when the first insult came. While OPS was in Delhi to meet the Prime Minister about jallikattu, Lok Sabha Deputy Speaker Thambidurai turned up outside the PM’s residence along with several other MPs.
“The Prime Minister had to tell them that he was meeting me, the Chief Minister, and that he will meet the MPs later,” OPS revealed.
“I was distressed,” said Panneerselvam. But when he came back to the state and took the matter up, he got no response (from party general secretary Sasikala).
The second insult came from the state’s Revenue Minister RB Udhayakumar. After Panneerselvam had been appointed the Chief Minister by the Governor, Udhayakumar spoke to media persons where he said that Chinnamma should be the Chief Minister of the state.
When OPS questioned the statement, he says he was told that Udhayakumar had been rapped for his comments.
Even senior party leaders like Sellur K. Raju condemned Udhayakumar’s comments, said OPS.
But just a few days later - insult number 3 - as even Raju turned coat. “He gave interviews to the media saying Chinnamma should be the Chief Minister. Soon after, Sengottaiyan also said the same thing,” OPS said.
The biggest insult though came on Sunday, February 5. “I was busy dealing with the oil spill situation when I was called to Amma’s house,” OPS narrated. “When I was reached, I was told that Chinnamma should be made the Chief Minister. When I questioned the timing of the move, they told me that the MLAs’ meeting was called, and therefore it must be done while the MLAs’ are together.”
Apparently, OPS did not even know that the meeting had been called. When he asked for some time to go to Jayalalithaa’s memorial, so he could tell his Amma before resigning, Panneerselvam claims he wasn’t even allowed to do that.
“I was forced to resign,” Panneerselvam said, confirming what many have been speculating since his resignation.
“I never asked to be made CM, but you made me CM and insulted me again and again,” OPS said.
Panneerselvam’s revelations come at a time when Sasikala is on her dream run to the Chief Minister’s post.
As he tried to project himself as the wronged man, the hard working and efficient administrator who was thwarted by a person gunning for power, Panneerselvam’s list of ways in which he was insulted comes as fresh ammunition to Sasikala’s detractors.