Acting Tamil Nadu chief minister O Panneerselvam on Tuesday urged his party members and workers to “protect peace” and “be patient”, after All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam chief VK Sasikala was convicted by the Supreme Court in a disproportionate assets case. He said Tamil Nadu’s AIADMK government will continue without support from any other parties and that the top court verdict proved that J Jayalalithaa was still “guiding them”.

The AIADMK, however, announced that they had removed Panneerselvam and other members supporting him from the party. Tamil Nadu Education Minister Mafoi Pandiarajan, who had expressed his support for OPS on Saturday, said Sasikala had “no moral or legal right” to suspend anyone from the party.

New chief ministerial nominee:

AIADMK MLAs supporting VK Sasikala on Tuesday elected Edapadi K Palanisamy the new legislative leader of the party. Palanisamy is the current Tamil Nadu minister for highways and minor ports and a sitting MLA for Edapadi in Salem district. A letter signed by MLAs who support his election as the leader of AIADMK’s legislature party has been sent to Tamil Nadu Governor Vidyasagar Rao.

Palanisamy will meet the governor later today, officials said.

After her conviction in the illegal assets case, Sasikala had convened an emergency meeting with MLAs lodged at the Golden Bay resort in Kuvathur near Chennai to elect a legislature party leader to replace her. Reports had speculated that late Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalalithaa’s nephew Deepak could be nominated for the chief minister’s post.

A signature campaign was also believed to have been started to present the names of Sasikala supporters to the governor.

Moreover, reports claim that 22 MLAs have switched over to Paneerselvam’s camp. Just hours before the verdict, senior AIADMK leader and Mettur MLA Semmalai switched sides. After the apex court pronounced its judgment, Mylapore MLA and former Tamil Nadu director general of police Nataraj also joined the OPS camp, bringing the confirmed number of Pannerselvam supporters to ten.

The Bharatiya Janata Party has urged the governor to take a decision based on “numbers and credibility”, PTI reported.

Security at Golden Bay resort:

Police dressed in riot gear have been deployed in hundreds at the Kuvathur resort, where at least 118 AIADMK MLAs were purportedly taken to prevent them from engaging with Panneerselvam. Buses were seen entering the resort premises, but it remains unclear whether they are meant to transport the legislators back to the city.

Section 144 has been imposed around the Golden Bay Resort where several AIADMK MLAs have been lodged. Police stopped MLAs and MPs, who support Panneerselvam, when they tried “to rescue” the legislators lodged at the resort.

Political reactions:

Sasikala’s conviction drew reactions from various quarters on Tuesday. Bharatiya Janata Party leader Subramanian Swamy, who had first filed the case in 1996, said on Twitter, “After 20 years, I won.” Speaking to Times Now, Swamy said, “Jayalalithaa was corrupt. There was no doubt about it. In Tamil Nadu, corruption is the main culture.”

The AIADMK general secretary has been embroiled in the case with Jayalalithaa for 21 years. Jayalalithaa had been accused of colluding with Sasikala, Sasikala’s sister-in-law Ilavarasi and their nephew Sudhakaran during her term as chief minister between 1991 and 1996. The four had allegedly amassed wealth of around Rs 65 crore, which were disproportionate to their known sources of income.

Union minister Venkaiah Naidu said it was now the “need of the hour is to enable an able and stable government in Tamil Nadu as per the wishes of the people of state”. “I am sure Shri Rao will be at it now.”

OPS camp celebrates:

Panneerselvam’s supporters gathered outside his Chennai home in anticipation of the ruling cheered and welcomed the decision. They were ready with a large garland for their leader of choice and burst crackers, too, after the verdict.

Panneerselvam had said on Sunday, “All ministers and MLAs will come and join me one by one. Justice will prevail.” On Saturday, he got a big boost after Tamil Nadu’s Education Minister Mafoi Pandiarajan extended support to him, in addition to AIADMK founding member C Ponnaiyan.

The Tamil Nadu crisis:

The impasse between Sasikala and Panneerselvam has left Tamil Nadu politics in turmoil. The rift became evident after Panneerselvam, on February 7, had said he had been forced to resign as chief minister. He said his camp was prepared to respond to any allegations levelled by Sasikala and her supporters.

Though Sasikala had claimed that she enjoyed the support of a majority of AIADMK legislators, Panneerselvam had said that several legislators were on his side and that he could prove his strength in the state Assembly.