Just as the state of Tamil Nadu was bracing itself up to see VK Sasikala take oath as the CM, a dramatic speech by caretaker CM O Panneerselvam at Jayalalithaa’s memorial, after a 40-minute silent meditation at her resting place, has changed the landscape of TN politics.
Elaborating in detail as to how the party was made to elect Sasikala as the General Secretary and eventually forced to resign, to vacate the CM’s chair for her, OPS said that he was willing to withdraw his resignation if the people of Tamil Nadu wanted him to, and that he is now willing to fight the battle all alone.
This has no doubt sent the state into a tizzy, but what next? What is going to happen to the government of TN?
Possibility of President's rule
For one, the Governor may also decide to dissolve the Assembly, or keep it in suspended animation, and declare President's rule.
If that doesn't happen, there are several other possibilities.
OPS returns as full-time CM?
First, will OPS withdraw his resignation? And if he does, will the Governor accept it – will the withdrawal be vaild? Legal experts say that it is unlikely his resignation can be reversed now, but owing to the unusual political circumstances in the state, if the Governor does accept OPS’s withdrawal, then OPS will return as the CM, and much stronger.
Will Sasikala fight it out?
The other important factor that will decide what will happen next is how Sasikala will react. There are two broad possibilities. One, she decides to fight it out with OPS, and then we have an all-out political tussle ahead of us. Two, she decides to bide her time, attempting to seek sympathy by going along with OPS as the CM, which seems unlikely now that he has been suspended from his party post.
The anti-defection law ensures that parties cannot be split anymore, an MLA has to toe the party line or they are out. In such a scenario, what matters is who has the popular support of the MLAs.
So, if Sasikala decides to fight OPS, she will have to prove she has more support on the floor of the house. The floor test will then decide the future political course of the state.
Who has the numbers?
Therefore, it will all come down to the numbers. Whoever has more support from the MLAs is more likely to get their way. Any leader would need at least 117 MLAs to stake claim to the government.
Given that Sasikala’s popularity is abysmally low, and with his speech OPS has emerged as some kind of a hero, MLAs are likely to see the writing on the wall and move to support OPS, if not for the betterment of the state, then for their own job security. No one in AIADMK would want an election now.
The long-term picture we could then be looking at is that OPS takes over the party and remains the CM.
Will Sasikala be able to stop him from doing that? Only time will tell.