Did Panneerselvam’s smile at Stalin cost him his post?

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"O Panneerselvam was seen smiling at Stalin during the assembly session," said party general secretary Sasikala Natarajan after late night emergency meets with AIADMK MLAs on Tuesday. She implied that Panneerselvam was in cahoots with the DMK and had indulged in a smear campaign against the party at the behest of DMK. She inferred all this from a conversation that Panneerselvam shared with Stalin during the assembly session.

(Left) Tamil Nadu Chief Minister O Panneerselvam, (Right) DMK leader Stalin

She even accused him of parroting a script that was given to him 'someone else', hours after he made his dissent public. Speaking to the media, Sasikala, impromptu for the very first time, alleged that Panneerselvam was lying about acting under duress and he was, in fact, being manipulated by vested interests. She made her decision to expel him from the party clear.

As expected, Panneerselvam lashed out at Sasikala over the allegations. "Smile is what differentiates human beings from animals. I do not think smiling is a crime," he told reporters later. He rubbished Sasikala's claims of him being hand-in-glove with the DMK.

The DNK's executive leader M K Stalin called Sasikala's statements shameful on Wednesday. "It is a shame that Sasikala says Panneerselvam smiled at me. Several times during assembly, even Jayalalithaa had wished me and smiled. Would Sasikala have dared question Jayalalithaa?" he asked. The leader of opposition in the Tamil Nadu assembly also said that blaming Panneerselvam for smiling at him when a laughable turn of events is happening within AIADMK was shameful.

It may be recalled that Stalin has made many moves that were unheard or unseen in Tamil Nadu politics in the recent past. He visited Rajaji hall to pay respects to Jayalalithaa's mortal remains, he met Panneerselvam soon after Cyclone Vardah in an unprecedented move. Spokespersons of DMK have been hailing Panneerselvam in most interviews in comparison to Sasikala. All these events have made AIADMK cadres question Panneerselvam's loyalties, an allegation that has been shot down by Stalin as well as Panneerselvam.

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