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7 Feb 2017

Churn around Chinnamma

G.C. Shekhar, TT, Chennai, Feb. 6: Celestial configurations have been taken care of but a terrestrial shadow has crept up on V.K. Sasikala's coronation schedule.
This morning, the Supreme Court said it would deliver the verdict in the wealth case against Sasikala and two others "next week". Jayalalithaa was also an accused but since she is no more, the case against her abates.
The Supreme Court had reserved the verdict as long as six months ago in June last year. Usually, verdicts are pronounced within 15-60 days of reserving them. A bench headed by Justice P.C. Ghose said the verdict would be pronounced "next week" but did not announce a specific date.
Latching on to the apex court's observation, a Chennai-based NGO immediately petitioned the court that Sasikala should not be sworn in as chief minister of Tamil Nadu till the verdict was delivered.
The action coincided with a backlash on social media against Sasikala and an unusual attempt by the state government to field Jayalalithaa's doctors to dismiss rumours that she had been poisoned.
Among those who took a poke was cricketer Ravichandran Ashwin, who suggested that Sasikala's selection could lead to a mid-term election to the Assembly with 234 elected legislators. "To all the youngsters in TN, 234 job opportunities to open up shortly," he tweeted.
Although governor Vidyasagar Rao accepted the resignation of O. Panneerselvam and his ministry, he has asked them to continue till alternative arrangements were made. Sources said late tonight that the governor was seeking legal opinion on whether he should wait till the Supreme Court delivered the verdict.
"If the governor wishes, he could extend the life of the OPS government till the Supreme Court verdict. If the court clears Sasikala, she can be sworn in on the same day. But if it goes against Sasikala, her chief ministerial ambitions would be shot down," said a former advocate-general.
Since the governor is expected in Chennai only tomorrow morning, a swearing-in is unlikely before Wednesday or Thursday, sources had said before the NGO moved the court. The sources claimed astrologers had said that from Tuesday evening till Thursday, the stars would be in the "right place" for a takeover.
Like Jayalalithaa, Sasikala is a great believer in astrology and numerology. Sasikala's astrologers had asked her to assume charge as chief minister by Thursday, when Tamil Nadu celebrates Thai Poosam in honour of Lord Muruga.
If she missed the Thursday date, it could take her another six months to grab that chair, the astrologers had reportedly warned her.
Not leaving anything to chance, the state administration is getting the University Centenary Auditorium, opposite the memorials to MGR and Jayalalithaa on the Marina Beach, ready. "We are prepared to hold the swearing-in on Tuesday evening between 4.30pm and 6pm, which is an auspicious time," said an official.
"The original plan was to take charge immediately after the Pongal holidays on January 14. But the jallikattu protests spoilt her plans. There was no way a change of guard could happen in that charged atmosphere. But the way Panneerselvam moved and defused the crisis deftly set alarm bells ringing within the family that he might become a permanent fixture. Hence the MLAs were asked to assemble on Sunday, OPS was cajoled into quitting and Sasikala got elected," a source said.
Those close to Sasikala's family said they were confident that the Supreme Court verdict would not affect her takeover.
The case deals with an allegation that Jayalalithaa had accumulated assets of Rs 66 crore disproportionate to her known sources of income. A special court in Bangalore had sentenced Jayalalithaa, Sasikala and the others to four years in jail. They spent a few weeks in prison.
On appeal, a single-judge bench of Karnataka High Court had overturned the verdict. The Karnataka government then approached the Supreme Court, where the verdict is pending now.

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