Chennai: Tamil Nadu chief minister O. Panneerselvam through an act of surprise rebellion on Tuesday night sprang a surprise amid the unfolding political chaos in the state.
As he raised his voice against the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) general secretary V.K. Sasikala, it was a clear manifestation of his continuing loyalty— for which he has always been mocked — to J.Jayalalithaa, the late chief minister.
At around 9pm on Tuesday he reached the Jayalilathaa’s memorial and meditated for over 40 minutes. The media rushed in as the nation remained clueless on Panneerselvam’s move.
While the unassuming Pannerselvam’s meditation seemed to symbolize a silent rebellion, he followed it up with a speech that cleared the air about the man who had all along been portrayed as a puppet.
For the first time in his political career he let his voice be heard during a 50-minute speech which was a crafted assault on Sasikala and his AIADMK colleagues, sending shock waves across the party.
His calculated speech was an expression of introspection and guilt.
He chose his leader’s memorial site and invoked a “sense of divinity"—a key aspect to win the support of the public.
“I came to Amma’s memorial as my conscience pricked me. I wish to put forth some truths before the people and party supporters," he said.
He refrained from uttering a single harsh word against Sasikala and kept referring to her as ‘Chinnamma’ while projecting himself as a refined politician.
It’s difficult to doubt the unflinching loyalty of the man who has now managed to surprise politicians across the country. At some point over the last few days, the ‘fear factor’ seems to have emerged and the question ‘Am I doing any injustice to my leader and party?’ seems to have driven Panneerselvam to rebel.
For Panneerselvam, complete devotion to Jayalalithaa had become part of his expression and personality over the years.
When Jayalalithaa was jailed in 2014, Panneerselvam was anointed chief minister in a stop-gap arrangement. But, he refused to physically occupy the chief minister’s chair in a symbolic sign of respect to his leader Jayalalithaa. And it was rumoured that although she was in jail, he visited her Poes Garden residence every day— just as he would do in the normal course of affairs to brief her on office matters.
While AIADMK members claim that he is now a puppet in the hands of the Bharatiya Janata Party, it should become clear in the coming days if indeed he is that or if Panneerselvam will continue to display his personal integrity to his departed leader and to the AIADMK, of which he still claims to be a member.