How the Tamil media covered Sasikala's big day

Last Updated: Tue, Feb 14, 2017 17:14 hrs
DA Conviction: Events as they unfolded through the day

It is ironic that supporters of Chief Minister O.Paneerselvam burst crackers and distributed sweets to celebrate the Supreme Court’s judgement upholding the conviction in the disproportionate assets case. The judgement finds their own leader J.Jayalalithaa, as well as head of the now rival faction Sasikala, Ilavarasi and Sudhakaran. But such is the situation as the bitter turf war between OPS and Sasikala has been playing out over the past few days.

With bated breath, Tami Nadu waited for the Supreme Court judgement, long overdue, in the disproportionate assets case. This article in The Wire tracks the many twists and turns in the case over the past two decades. The original complaint was filed by Subramaniam Swamy, then with Janata Party and now with the BJP, in 1996.

complaint based on information taken from the wealth declared by Jayalalithaa in 1989-90 prior to becoming CM in 1991 that she had amassed wealth and property disproportionate to her known sources of income. Subsequent to this, the judge directed investigation under the Prevention of Corruption Act and Section 202 of the Code of Criminal Procedure

The case was then transferred out of the state in 2001 as a result of an appeal made by the DMK. The Special Court in Karnataka finally convicted all of them, through a judgement by Justice Michael Cunha in 2014. On appeal in the Karnataka High Court, the judgement was set aside and Jayalalithaa came back to rule the state.

There was much speculation about whether the two judges, P.C Ghose and Amitava Roy, would differ on the judgement. But when they finally assembled at 10:30am this morning, it was revealed that the judgements were in fact concurrent. The story broke on all media channels soon after.

One of the channels to report the breaking news live, Puthiya Thalaimurai said –

“The Supreme Court has set aside the order of the High Court which means that the judgement of Justice Kunha, of the trial court, will be upheld. As per that judgement, the accused are sentenced to 4 years in prison and a fine of Rs.10 crores has been imposed on each of them. The judges also said that since the first accused Jayalalithaa is no more, she has been released from this judgement”

Sasikala whose hopes of becoming the Chief Minister are effectively over, spent the night at the Golden Bay resort in Koovathur, just outside Chennai. Amidst heavy police presence within the resort premises, she led a discussion with the MLAs about the future course of action.

In an interview to Puthiya Thalaimurai TV, prosecutor B.V. Acharya says that High Court should have ideally upheld the judgement of the trial court, but instead they acquitted the accused based on false calculations. He went on to say that the conviction under the Prevention of Corruption Act essentially means that Sasikala will be unable to become Chief Minister for 10 years, including the 4 years she will have to spend in jail.

The first reaction from AIADMK was this tweet - The legacy of Amma has been tarnished by traitors.

O.Paneerselvam and his supporters held a press conference soon after the judgement. OPS, who went to the Secretariat to resume work as Chief Minister yesterday, gained the support of two more MLAs last night taking his count up to 10.

Amma’s spirit is still alive. At this good time, I am obliged to thank all supporters, senior leaders, members of AIADMK and to assure them the spirit of Amma will protect and guide our nation and its people. It is Amma’s government that is still functioning. It will be Amma’s government that will function in the future. I am obliged to reassure everyone at this time, that the government will function according to the rules, discipline and philosophy of Respected Amma. With the support of the MLAs, this government will continue. In view of this, it is our responsibility to ensure calm and peace. We must watch the events unfolding calmly and function in a way that does not go against the law and order.

He also released a statement reaching out to the party MLAs on Sasikala’s side calling for unity, inviting them to join him.

In the meanwhile, DMK welcomed the judgement with M.K Stalin. He also called on the Governor to fulfil his constitutional duties and to establish a stable government in the state.

Justice has prevailed. For those in public life who wish to stray from the honest path, this verdict will be a lesson.

As the media speculated about who would be the replacement, Sasikala made a series of announcements including removing O.Paneerselvam and several others who supported him from the AIADMK. Edapadi Palanisami, the Minister for Highways and Minor Ports, was chosen as the replacement.

According to this article in Vikatan, Edapadi Palanisamy is known to have close ties with the Mannargudi family, including Sasikala. Given that OPS and others revolted, this was their next best choice. The article quotes an unnamed senior leader who said –

Even before the judgement came, the family and Sasikala had a discussion in private. They decided on Edapadi Palanisamy. This decision was communicated to the MLAs in Koovathur. Some of them raised objections and Sasikala spoke with them. Some promises were made to them following which they were ready to support Edapadi Palanisamy.

As of 4pm today, the fate of the government in Tamil Nadu is still unclear. With Sasikala’s faction, still holding on to 125 MLAs and only 10 in OPS’s camp, will the Governor Vidyasagar Rao call him to form the government, or will he continue to wait and watch?

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