Jailed Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa on Sunday discussed the issue of her successor with a few cabinet ministers following her conviction for corruption.
”Jayalalithaa has advised cabinet colleagues and party leaders to convene a meeting of all lawmakers (legislators) in Chennai later in the day and elect a leader to serve as chief minister,” an AIADMK leader told IANS here.
The meeting lasting a hour was held over breakfast in the visitors’ room of the Central Jail in the city’s outskirts.
Jayalalithaa was jailed late Saturday after a special judge sentenced her to four years in prison for amassing wealth illegally when she was chief minister in 1991-96.
Among those who met Jayalalithaa were Tamil Nadu Finance Minister O. Panneerselvam, Excise Minister Natham Viswanathan, Transport Minister Senthil Balaji and former chief secretary Sheela Balakrishna.
They “sought her advise on how to elect a new leader”, the party official said but declined to be quoted by name.
As Panneerselvam had served as interim chief minister over a decade ago in similar circumstances, speculation is rife that Jayalalithaa would advise her legislators to elect him as the party’s leader in the Tamil Nadu assembly.
”Panneerselvam is the front-runner for the chief minister’s post as he is the senior most cabinet minister in our government and a trusted aide of Jayalalithaa over the last three decades,” the AIADMK leader said.
”Jayalalithaa wants a new leader to take over at the earliest to assuage the hurt feelings of the lawmakers and thousands of party cadres across the state over the verdict,” the party member said.
Jayalalithaa’s lawyers are expected to meet her later in the day to discuss remedies to secure bail from the high court.
After spending Saturday night in the special cell in the women’s wing of the jail, the 66-year-old Jayalalithaa woke up at 5.30 a.m. Sunday and went for a brisk walk on the lawns.
”She is fine. She had sugarless coffee and went through three Tamil newspapers and an English daily that her personal assistant brought for her,” a jail official said.
The jail warden, however, refused to allow a special chair brought from Chennai for the use of Jayalalithaa, who suffers from back pain.
”As per the prison manual, we cannot allow outside things like furniture unless the court permits and doctors recommend,” the warden said.