J Jayalalithaa, the strong woman, dies in harness. O Paneerselvam, the eternal loyalist, revolts. V K Sasikala, the chief minister’s soul mate, is jailed. And hey-who-is-he E Palaniswami is the new chief minister. You would rip a scriptwriter if he came with this joke of a storyline. Even in Tollywood, forget Bollywood, there would be no takers for the proposal. But the reality is stranger than fiction. Read on.
7 Feb 2017 21:05 hours.
Marina, Chennai 600 005
O Paneerselvam (aka OPS), the yes-man with a 40-year stint in the party, sat in yogic pose – eyes closed and legs crossed – for 40 minutes. Television cameras hungrily captured the moment. At 21:45 hours he came out of his trance and informed the waiting journalists of his conversation with the soul of Jayalalithaa. No one in India had seen or heard anything of this sort before.
Yes, OPS had raised the banner of revolt. He informed the world he was coerced into signing his resignation letter to the Governor and had been pushed to propose Sasikala for the position of chief minister. He spoke of his humiliation at the hands of the very people who wanted him to become chief minister. He told them he had now unburdened his heart to Jaya and was ready to redeem his honour. It was stirring oratory: a Mark Antony on the Marina.
To understand OPS’s rise from a man who carried servility on his sleeves to a man with balls, we must appreciate the shifting ramshackle of time.