Nearly four months after Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami won the trust vote in the floor of the Assembly, an expose by Times Now and Moon TV suggests that money was paid to sway votes in favour of the ruling AIADMK.
On February 8, over 100 AIADMK MLAs were bundled into buses and transported to Golden Bay Resorts at Koovathur, near Mahabalipuram. While there have been whispers of what happened at the resort, no MLA has come on record to admit whether a deal was struck between AIADMK (Amma) General Secretary VK Sasikala and the locked-up leaders.
A sting operation carried out by Moon TVâ€™s Shanawaz on Madurai South MLA SS Saravanan has revealed that money may have changed hands to fix the February 18 trust vote.
â€śThey did not commit anything directlyâ€¦but we all got information. There was information that they are going to give Rs 2 crores for each MLA. When we got into the bus we heard it is going to be 2 crores. So before reaching Koovathoor it became 4 crores. So when we got into the bus it was 2 crores, when we reached airport for governor it was 4, then when we reached Koovathur it was 6 crores. We kept hearing this and the next day they said there is no availability of cash and we have decided to give you in gold. I was very, very happy, anyways we will buy gold with the money they give. If we buy gold directly in the market people may try to cheat us. I immediately called home and informed that they have decided to give gold and all our problems will be solved,â€ť revealed Saravanan on spy-camera.
Saravanan, incidentally, is the same MLA who made a dramatic escape from the Koovathur resort, and switched to the O Panneerselvam camp. Following his escape, Saravanan had told the media that many MLAs were willing to switch to OPSâ€™ faction, but were being held captive.
Saravanan then goes on to name a few MLAs who received large sums to vote in favour of EPS in the state Assembly. â€śOnly 3 MLAs have received highest amount. Thani Arasu, Karunas and Tamimun Ansari. They got 10 crore. For others, they have not even received 1 crore.â€ť
Thani Arasu is the MLA from Paramathi-Velu, Tamimun Ansari represents Nagapattinam while Karunas is the MLA from Thiruvadanai assembly constituency.
Saravanan also suggests that those who are now part of Team OPS came together as they had earlier been side lined by former CM J Jayalalithaa. â€śThose who were side lined by Amma are a team now. Dr Maiteriyan, KP Munusamy, PH Pandian, Natham Vishwanathan and OPS. They all fell out of Ammaâ€™s favour. On the other side MLAâ€™s are like thatâ€¦ We all have some name because we are in power. If I was with EPS I would have been one among the crowd. Since I am here (With OPS) I am being identified, otherwise why will you invite me and talk to me. I would have been one among them after receiving Rs 2 crores. Now there is a name for me and I have started to do politics,â€ť he says.
When asked what he thought about OPS raising suspicions about Jayalalithaaâ€™s death only after he rebelled against Sasikala, Saravanan admits that making a U-turn is common in politics.
â€śThat is quite common in politics. He has to do that for elections (RK Nagar). You canâ€™t help it. That is how politics is,â€ť says the MLA.
In another sting operation carried out by Shabbir Ahmed, Times Now's Chennai bureau chief on R Kanakaraj, the AIADMK MLA from Sulur, who is now in the ruling EPS camp, confesses that money and gold were promised to MLAs, with some having received the bribe.
â€śYes, they promised us money and gold. Some of them have received it and some of them havenâ€™t and the process is going on,â€ť Kanakaraj admits on spy-camera.
Kanakaraj had been in the news a few months ago when a video of him complaining that Sasikala treated her MLAs like bonded labourers was leaked.