And giving into another key demand made for the merger by former Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam, the Chief Minister also said that Jayalalithaa’s famed Poes Garden house in the heart of Chennai will be turned into a memorial.
“The government has decided to appoint a Commission of inquiry headed by a retired judge to go into the death of Jayalalithaa as there have been several reports on the circumstances surrounding the death,” he told the media at the Secretariat, flanked by by senior ministers including Finance Minister D. Jayakumar.
The plush Poes Garden residence, where Jayalalithaa lived for years, would become a memorial and would be open to the public.
Chief Minister Palaniswamy said the Commission would be headed by a retired High Court judge. Asked what action would be taken on its report, he answered: “Any action can be taken only after it gives its report.”
Jayalalithaa died in Apollo Hospital on December 5 last year after prolonged illness. Ever since, there have been hints at foul play over her death, with critics pointing fingers at the now jailed V.K. Sasikala, a close aide of Jayalalithaa and who lived with her.
There was no immediate reaction to the announcement by Panneerselvam, whose revolt against Sasikala’s leadership of the party after Jayalalithaa’s death led to a split in the AIADMK. But his key supporters hailed the decisions.
K.P. Munusamy, a senior leader in the Panneerselvam faction, said their group had been demanding a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) into the then Chief Minister’s death and keeping Sasikala and her family members out of the AIADMK.
But Munusamy wondered whether a judicial commission would deliver full justice.
“It seems the Chief Minister has started acting on his own only now,” K.C. Palaniswamy, a former MP of the AIADMK and a spokesperson of the Panneerselvam faction, told IANS.
“The inquiry Commission should study and probe past five years medical records of Jayalalithaa and the treatment given to her. The probe should not restrict itself to the treatment given to her in Apollo Hospital (where she died),” he said.
“If the needle of suspicion points towards anybody pertaining to Jayalalithaa’s death, then a CBI probe should be ordered,” he added.
According to him, the ruling AIADMK faction led by Chief Minister Palaniswami was moving towards a merger with the Panneerselvam faction.
He said the next step towards a merger would be calling a General Council meeting of the party and declaring as invalid the appointment of Sasikala as the party General Secretary — a post formerly held by Jayalalithaa.
Ma Foi K. Pandiarajan, a former minister and a leader in the Panneerselvam faction, tweeted that he was delighted.
He said: “Victory for OPS dharma yuddham. All three demands by OPS met decisively. Time to transparently negotiate for merger.”
The pro-Sasikala group in the AIADMK led by her nephew T.T.V. Dinakaran, however, flayed the Chief Minister. “What has necessitated the setting up of a judicial Commission?” asked a Dinakaran aide and MLA, Thanga Tamilchelvan.
Former Union Minister and PMK leader Anbumani Ramadoss, however, felt a judicial inquiry was only “a political game” and insisted that the CBI must probe Jayalalithaa’s death.
The DMK felt that the BJP, which has been wanting to spread its wings in Tamil Nadu, was prodding the Chief Minister.
“Both the factions of AIADMK are taking turns to fall at the feet of the BJP at the Centre. This step can be seen only as a move aimed at pleasing the BJP,” DMK leader T.K.S. Elangovan said.
Elangovan said that when the DMK sought a judicial probe, the Chief Minister had rejected it but now they have acted because of “pressure” from the BJP so as to sideline Sasikala.
Tamil Nadu Congress leader S. Thirunavukarasar said it would be good if the people realise the truth about the death of Jayalalithaa.