As the uncertainty over the next Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu continued today, all eyes were tonight on Governor C Vidyasagar Rao over after Edapaddi K Palaniswami and rival O Panneerselvam met him with claims of majority support of AIADMK MLAs.
AIADMK legislature party leader Palaniswami, who had yesterday called on the Governor to stake claim for forming the government, met him again this evening with a fresh list of legislators supporting him. He claimed support of 124 of the party's 134 MLAs. Tamil Nadu has a 234-member legislative assembly.
Fisheries Minister D Jayakumar, who was among those who accompanied Palaniswami, claimed the group has the support of 124 MLAs.
"We have given the Governor a list of legislators supporting our legislature party leader Palaniswami. Governor told us that our representation will be considered and we are confident that democracy will be protected," Jayakumar told reporters after the meeting.
"We have told Governor Rao that Palaniswami enjoys the support of a majority of MLAs and hence he should be invited to form the government," he said.
Palanisamy is part of AIADMK General Secretary VK Sasikala camp who was today sent to jail after Supreme Court restored her earlier conviction and of two relatives for having assets disproportionate to their known sources of income.
Soon after the meeting between the Governor and Palanisamy, acting Chief Minister Panneerselvam also reached Raj Bhavan.
Panneerselvam gave a representation to the Governor claiming "majority" support and seeking an opportunity to demonstrate it. The Panneerselvam camp has alleged AIADMK MLAs were held at a resort on Chennai's outskirts against their wish.
While Panneerselvam has managed to win over the support of over 10 MPs and some MLAs, Sasikala has been able to keep the flock of around 120 of AIADMK's 124 legislators with her.
Though Panneerselvam does not have the explicit support of a very large number of MLAs, he has been insisting he would prove majority on the floor of the House if asked to do so.
Palanisamy had yesterday met the Governor to stake claim to the govt after he was elected the leader of the AIADMK legislature party.
"I may be given appointment to submit the list of AIADMK MLAs supporting me as Leader of the AIADMK Legislature Party... I may be invited to form the cabinet," Palanisamy said in a the letter to Rao.
He is the Minister for Public Works, Highways and Minor Ports in Tamil Nadu.
Palanisamy's election came after the Supreme Court restored the earlier conviction of Sasikala in disproportionate assets case. The conviction by the top court stopped Sasikala from contesting polls for the next 10 years. She was sent to Bengaluru jail today.
On February 5, the legislators had elected Sasikala as leader of the AIADMK legislature party.
As both the factions of the AIADMK have claimed to form a government, all eyes are now on Governor C Vidyasagar Rao over the swearing-in of the new Tamil Nadu Chief Minister
However, there has been no official word so far from Rao, who was on Moday advised by Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi to convene a special session of the Legislative Assembly within a week for holding a composite floor test.
The Governor had kept his decision pending as the verdict in the disproportionate assets case against Sasikala, a claimant for chief ministership, was due to be announced by the Supreme Court.
It remains to be seen whether the Governor goes by the AG's advice for a floor test by the two competing claimants for chief ministership or invites Palaniswami to form the government.
Before Sasikala began serving the remnant three years, 10 months and 27 days sentence in a Karnataka prison this evening, she reinducted her close relatives T T V Dinkaran and S Venkatesh into the party, five years after their expulsion by AIADMK supremo and the then chief minister J Jayalalithaa.
Sasikala appointed Dinakaran, her nephew and former Rajya Sabha member, the deputy general secretary of AIADMK, a move seen by many as an attempt to hand over the party's control to him till her return from jail.
Dinakaran's appointment prompted V Karuppasamy Pandian, a senior AIADMK leader to resign as the party's organisation secretary.
An angry Pandian went to the extent of questioning Sasikala's authority of reinducting people expelled by Jayalalithaa, and asking if AIADMK was her "family property".
While re-admitting Dinakaran and Venkatesh into the party, Sasikala said the two had tendered apology for their actions.
"Dinakaran and Venkatesh are allowed to join the party after they expressed regret for their acts in person and through letter and requested that they be allowed to join the party (again)," Sasikala said in a statement here.
Dinakaran and Venkatesh, besides Sasikala and her husband M Natarajan were expelled from AIADMK in 2011 by Jayalalithaa amidst reports they interfered with the functioning of the party and the government.
Dinakaran was part of the 12-member AIADMK team led by Palaniswami which met Governor Vidyasagar Rao and staked claim to form government yesterday.
Social Welfare Minister V Saroja, who belongs to Sasikala camp, defended the appointment of Dinakaran, calling him a "calm and humble man."
She recalled that Jayalalithaa had once appointed him as the secretary of a key party forum meant to interact with the workers.
"He is not new to the party. He had moved closely with party workers. He is a calm and humble man," she told reporters.
Saroja said party MLAs will abide by the decision as Sasikala was the general secretary of the party.
(With PTI inputs)