VK Sasikala Natarajan. Photo: AFP
VK Sasikala Natarajan. Photo: AFP

India’s Tamil Nadu state faces a political circus as uncertainty shrouds the swearing-in of chief minister-designate VK Sasikala Natarajan.

In a late night development on Monday, state governor C Vidyasagar Rao,
who was to administer the oath of office to Sasikala at the Madras University Centenary Auditorium in Chennai on Tuesday morning, travelled instead from Mumbai to Delhi.

It seems likely that the reason for his trip to Mumbai is a public interest lawsuit filed on Monday by an NGO – one in which the petitioner is seeking prevent
Sasikala from being sworn in as chief minister until the Supreme Court delivers its verdict in a disproportionate assets case in which she stands accused, along with her mentor and former chief minister late J Jayalalithaa and two others.

The Supreme Court was set to hear the case Tuesday and Rao is said to be concerned over its legal implications.

The petitioner, Senthil Kumar, a lawyer, contends that riots may break out across the state if Sasikala is convicted in the disproportionate assets case and forced to resign as chief minister soon after she is sworn in.

The Karnataka High Court had in May 2015 acquitted Jayalalithaa, Sasikala and two others in the Rs530 million (US$7.89 million) assets case.

However, petitioners, including the government of Karnataka, appealed to the Supreme Court against the acquittal.

On Monday, a bench of the apex court indicated that a judgement in the assets case may be delivered in a week’s time.

The undue haste shown by the AIADMK party over Sasikala’s swearing-in took people by surprise. The party had initially scheduled her inauguration for February 9.

Some believe the party’s haste may be due to a social media storm rising against Sasikala.

Tamil rapper Sofia Ashraff posted a video of a protest song against Sasikala which has gone viral. It charges that she is an unelected and untested leader facing serious allegations in court and should not be allowed to take office.

Meanwhile, over 150,000 citizens have backed an online petition against Sasikala being sworn in and calling for dissolution of the Tamil Nadu assembly.

In the meantime, dissent is growing within the AIADMK itself. Party member Manoj Pandian said Jayalalithaa never wanted Sasikala to become chief minister.