For now, Jayalalithaa continues as Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, but all her ministerial portfolios have been allocated to State Finance Minister O Panneerselvam, a Raj Bhavan statement issued on Tuesday night said.
Jayalalithaa has been in Chennai’s Apollo Hospital since September 22. A health bulletin issued by the hospital on Monday said she is on respiratory support and is being looked after by a team of intensivists and other consultants. There was no bulletin issued on Tuesday.
A statement issued by the principal secretary to Governor C Vidyasagar Rao said that all of Jayalalithaa’s portfolios, including Home, IAS, IFS and General Administration, have been allocated to Panneerselvam under Clause (3) of Article 166 of the Constitution. The statement said that Panneerselvam will also preside over cabinet meetings from now on.
“This arrangement has been made as per the advice of the Chief Minister and will continue until Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa resumes her duties,” it said.
The release said the subjects had been allotted to Panneerselvam under clauses (3) of Article 166 of the Constitution of India.
Panneerselvam has, twice in the past, assumed the charge as proxy Chief Minister when Ms Jayalalithaa had to step down. For instance, in September 2001, she stepped down as her appointment as Chief Minister was quashed by the Supreme Court and Panneerselvam, a first time MLA then replaced her. Later, after her conviction by the special court in Bangalore in connection with the disproportionate wealth case, he once again was sworn in as Chief Minister.
A similar arrangement had been made in October 1984, when the then CM M G Ramachandran, Jayalalithaa’s political mentor, was hospitalised in Apollo. As MGR’s absence led to a constitutional crisis, the then Governor S L Khurana had allowed V R Nedunchezhiyan, the then finance minister and number two in the cabinet, to handle the CM’s portfolios.
A senior AIADMK leader had said last week that there was “no need” to appoint an interim CM “when Amma is around”. On reports of a tussle between Panneerselvam and Jayalalithaa’s close aide Sasikala, who is reportedly taking crucial decisions in her absence, the leader said, “Right now there are no issues. Sasikala can’t afford to have any fight with anyone now. She will guide the party and government in Amma’s name like Bharata ruled the country in Rama’s name.”
The decision to appoint Panneerselvam comes at a time when some influential OBC groups have been demanding that their candidate be named CM. While Panneerselvam and Sasikala belong to the powerful Thevar community, Gounder and Nadar groups have also been vying for the top spot.
Police warns of stern action
With social media abuzz with rumours and “malicious content” about Jayalalithaa’s health, police on Tuesday enlisted private cyber experts to keep a watch on platforms like Facebook and WhatsApp and warned of stern action against those indulging in such acts. “We have formed a few police teams. And the help of cyber experts from private agencies has been sought. They will help the Cyber Crime wing,” a senior official of Central Crime Branch (CCB) of City Police dealing with the matter told PTI.
He said the Cyber Crime wing will keep a watch on social media platforms like Facebook, WhatsApp and YouTube which are allegedly being misused to spread rumours about Jayalalithaa, who has been undergoing treatment at a corporate hospital since September 22 when she complained of fever and dehydration.
Police have so far registered 43 cases and arrested two persons in connection with the posting of allegedly “malicious and false content” on the social media about the health of 68-year-old Jayalalithaa.
Special teams, constituted to investigate such cases, were working to identify those who had posted such “false and malicious content” on social media, they said, adding such “offences are liable to be punished with rigorous imprisonment for more than seven years”.
“Users of social media are advised not to spread false, malicious and motivated information regarding the health condition of the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu. Stern action will be taken against the culprits if any such content is noticed,” police added.
Two persons have been arrested, one each from Namakkal and Madurai districts, by the CCB, following complaints.
A software engineer, Sathish Kumar from Devanankurichi in Namakkal “admitted” to having posted “malicious content” on Facebook, and he was arrested based on a complaint from the AIADMK IT Wing Secretary G Ramachandran, police said.
Further, Madurai-based Madasamy, who operated a website and posted “malicious content” about the Chief Minister’s health, was also arrested from Madurai, following a complaint from a resident of Chennai, police said.
The two were arrested under relevant IPC sections for “spreading rumours with intent to cause a riot, creating panic among the general public, causing disturbance to public order and for creating hatred between two groups,” police said, adding they were remanded in custody.
Meanwhile, it is learnt that Prof. Richard Beale, clinical director and professor of Intensive Care Medicine, at Guy’s and St. Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, will be back in Chennai on Thursday (October 13) and will stay for five days or more till the hospitalised Chief Minister recovers.
Tuesday passed without a bulletin from the hospital on the health status of Jayalalithaa, while the hospital continued to ensure that visitors were not allowed inside to prevent infections. Two levels of barriers have been established to ensure that the patient is protected from infections. The only persons allowed to go in are the doctors and nurses attending to her.