With the judgment going against All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) supremo and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalitha in the disproportionate asset case on Saturday, senior ruling party leader and Finance Minister O Paneerselvam is likely to hold the top post even as two other names emerged for the job.
A similar situation arose in 2000 when a trial court sentenced the AIADMK chief for imprisonments of three years and two years in two cases respectively. Jayalalitha was forced to step down as the chief minister following an apex court directive which held that she “cannot hold the office” after being convicted in a criminal case.
Jayalalitha’s trusted lieutenant O Paneerselvam took over as the chief minister and she returned to the top post after being acquitted by the Madras High Court.
With a four-year jail term this time, the AIADMK general secretary will stand disqualified from the MLA post.
AIADMK party sources said that since Paneerselvam “is the senior most leader” in the party, he would be the right candidate for the post. “He (Paneerselvam) will be our next chief minister until Amma comes back after proving her innocence in the court,” a senior party leader said.
He also said the AIADMK legislators would hold a meeting immediately after senior ministers returned from Bangalore and elected the chief minister officially.
However, there is also speculation that Jayalalitha may not give another chance to Paneerselvam. In that case, either Excise Minister Natham Viswanathan or Transport Minister Senthil Balaji may become the chief minister.
Even the name of former chief secretary Sheela Balakrishna, who is also in Jayalalitha’s good books, is doing the rounds as the possible successor.