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OPS gets boost as more AIADMK bigwigs back him in power tussle with Sasikala

Tamil Nadu caretaker Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam received a major boost in his open power tussle with ruling AIADMK General Secretary V. K. Sasikala when one of her key supporters and State Minister K. Pandiarajan and party spokesman and former Minister C. Ponnaiyan crossed over into his camp on Saturday.

 
TN Education Minister Pandiarajan backs OPS
Tamil Nadu caretaker Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam received a major boost in his open power tussle with ruling AIADMK General Secretary V. K. Sasikala when one of her key supporters and State Minister K. Pandiarajan and party spokesman and former Minister C. Ponnaiyan crossed over into his camp today.
 
As Ms. Sasikala moved quickly to keep her flock together amidst reports of growing desertions, three Lok Sabha members, V. Sathyabama of Tiruppur, Ashok Kumar of Krishnagiri and P R Sundaram of Namakkal also threw in their lot with Mr. Panneerselvam today.
 
Ms. Sasikala, on the other hand, voicing concern over the delay by Tamil Nadu Governor C. Vidyasagar Rao in responding to her claim to form the next Government in the state, wrote to him again today, seeking an opportunity to parade before him the MLAs supporting her.
 
Mr. Pandiarajan, the state Minister for School Education and Sports and Youth Welfare, arrived at Mr. Panneerselvam's residence, bringing cheer to the large crowd camping there and which has seen its support base growing slowly in the past few days.
 
The decision of Mr. Pandiarajan, one of the founders of well-known recruitment and consultancy firm Ma Foi, to switch loyalties is significant, given the fact that he was one of Ms. Sasikala's most ardent supporters during the past several days of political crisis in the state.
 
An indication of his impending shift was available from a "tweet" he posted on micro-blogging site Twitter this morning.
 
"Will surely listen to the collective voice of my voters & decide in a way to uphold the dignity of Amma's memory & unity of AIADMK!" he said.
 
Mr. Ponnaiyan said Mr. Panneerselvam was capable of leading the party with discipline and of running a corruption-free government.
 
Mr. Panneerselvam's Twitter handle said that state Rural Industries Minister P. Benjamin would shortly visit him to extend his support to him.
 
In her letter to the Governor, Ms. Sasikala noted that she had written to him on February 5 and February 7, seeking an appointment with him.
 
The Governor met her and nine Tamil Nadu Ministers in the evening of February 9 when she formally informed him of her election as the leader of the AIADMK legislature party last Sunday.
 
O. Panneerselvam
O. Panneerselvam
"... I submitted my elaborate presentation to invite me to form the Government as I have absolute majority. Original letter and true copy of the resolution were also handed over to Your Excellency," she said.
 
"Thus, as it has been seven long days since the Chief Minister Thiru. O. P. Panneerselvam submitted and Your Excellency accepted his resignation, taking the urgency of the situation at hand, I would like to seek an appointment with Your Excellency by today along with all MLAs who extended their support to me regarding further course of action to form the Government," she said.
 
"I believe Your Excellency will act immediately to save the sovereignty of the Constitution, democracy and the interest of the state," she added.
 
Ms. Sasikala addressed her supporters outside Veda Nilayam, the Poes Garden residence of the late Ms. Jayalalithaa, and said, "Amma has given me 1.5 crore party brothers and sisters.When they are with me,the sinister intentions of many will not  harm me."
 
"Amma is confident that I will look after AIADMK with all care," she said.
 
She said the relentless work done by Ms. Jayalalithaa had made AIADMK the third largest party. "Amma is with us now. Our Amma is now showing us the betrayers of our party," she said.
 
"People who think they can separate our party which has 1.5 crore people will only face defeat. Amma won over the hurdles, we are facing the same situation,we will also win over it. I believe in justice and democracy," she added.
Later, Ms. Sasikala drove in a motorcade to the resort where about 120 AIADMK MLAs have been staying for the past few days and met them for discussions on their future course of action.
 
"After meeting the party MLAs, I feel happy," she said. "All the party MLAs are fine and happy."
 
She said the "created time lag", in inviting her to form the government, appeared to be intended to create a split in the party.
 
Ms. Sasikala said she and her supporters were "waiting patiently" till now for a response to their claim, adding that "necessary measures will be taken".
 
Mr. K. A. Sengottayan, who has been appointed as the new chairman of the AIADMK Presidium, told journalists at the resort that all the MLAs there would remain with Ms. Sasikala till the end. "Our only aim is to make her the Chief Minister," he said.
 
However, there has been no indication whatsoever from Raj Bhavan in the past few days on when and how the political stalemate would be ended.
 
Even as the two rival groups continued to swipe and snipe at each other, Raj Bhavan clarified yesterday that the Governor had not sent any report to the President or the Ministry of Home Affairs on the political situation in the state.
 
The clarification came after media reports which said that Mr. Rao, who is the Governor of Maharashtra and is holding additional charge as the Governor of Tamil Nadu, had sent a report to the Centre after his meetings with Mr. Panneerselvam and Ms. Sasikala.
 
"Thiru Ch. Vidyasagar Rao, Governor of Tamil Nadu has not sent any report either to the Ministry of Home Affairs or to the President of India, as reported in some of the media," a statement from Raj Bhavan said.
 
Mr. Panneerselvam, 65, had submitted his resignation last Sunday after Ms. Sasikala, 60, a long-time aide of late Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa, was chosen by AIADMK MLAs as the new leader of their legislative party and, therefore, his successor. The Governor accepted his resignation on Monday and asked him to continue in office till alternative arrangments were made. 
 
Mr. Panneerselvam had been sworn in as the Chief Minister in the early hours of December 6, 2016 shortly after the death of Ms. Jayalalithaa, who was both the head of the government and the party supremo.
 
The usually reticent and self-effacing Mr. Panneerselvam made a surprise visit to the memorial of Ms. Jayalalithaa late in the night last Tuesday and then told waiting newspersons that he had been forced to resign and that he was willing to continue as Chief Minister if the people and the party so wished.
 
Ms. Sasikala was widely expected to be sworn in on Tuesday, but the Governor has not yet taken a final view on the situation confronting the state. Mr. Rao, who reached here from Mumbai on Thursday afternoon, met ten-member delegations led by the rivals, Mr. Panneerselvam and Ms. Sasikala, later that day.
 
While Mr. Panneerselvam told the Governor that he was forced to quit as Chief Minister and that he should be allowed to continue and take a floor test in the Assembly, Ms. Sasikala submitted to Mr. Rao a list of about 130 of the AIADMK's 135 MLAs and staked claim to forming the next Government.
 
The Governor is understood to be consulting legal and Constitutional experts and weighing his options.
 
Yesterday, Mr. Rao met State Chief Secretary Girija Vaidyanathan and Director General of Police T. K. Rajendran as well as Chennai Police Commissioner S. George amidst complaints by the Panneerselvam camp that the Sasikala group was holding about 120 MLAs at a nearby resort, many of them against their will.
 
V. K. Sasikala
V. K. Sasikala
DMK working president and leader of the Opposition M. K. Stalin met Mr Rao yesterday and submitted a representation in which he said the state administration could not be allowed to drift any further. He urged the Governor to take steps to ensure that a democratically and Constitutionally valid government was in place at the earliest through a free and fair floor test.
 
Meanwhile, Ms. Sasikala yesterday expelled AIADMK presidium chairman E. Madhusudanan from the primary membership of the party, a day after he threw in his lot with Mr. Panneerselvam. Mr. K. A. Sengottayan has been appointed as the new chairman of the presidium.
 
Mr. Madhusudanan, on his part, wrote to the Election Commission stating that Ms. Sasikala's election as General Secretary of the party was in violation of its rules and urging it to reject her claims in this regard.
 
Mr. Panneerselvam had said on Thursday that he would issue orders to convert Veda Nilayam, the Poes Garden residence of late Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa, into a memorial for her. The announcement assumes significance in view of the fact that Ms. Sasikala is functioning from that house.
 
To take this a step further, his camp has launched a signature campaign outside his residence on the proposal.
 
Two days after Ms. Sasikala removed him from the post of AIADMK treasurer, Mr. Panneerselvam on Thursday also wrote to banks asking them to not allow any one to access the party funds without his written permission. He said his removal from the post of treasurer was illegal.
 
Mr. Panneerselvam has been always regarded as a trusted lieutenant of Ms. Jayalalithaa and had stood in for her as Chief Minister twice when she faced crises.
 
Among those who have openly come out to support Mr. Panneerselvam is AIADMK Rajya Sabha member V. Maitreyan and former Tamil Nadu Assembly speaker P. H. Pandian.
 
There has been opposition to Ms. Sasikala's elevation from a section of the public, in social media and from the Opposition in the state. They point to the fact that she has never contested any election and has no administrative experience. They also point to the fact that an appeal against her acquittal in a two-decade-old corruption case is pending before the Supreme Court and its verdict could be delivered as early as next week.
 
Ms. Sasikala and two others were co-accused with Ms. Jayalalithaa in the case, in which they were all acquitted by the Karnataka High Court in May 2015. The two others are her nephew Sudhakaran, who is Ms. Jayalalithaa's disowned foster son, and her close relative Ilavarasi.
 
The Karnataka High Court had allowed Ms. Jayalalithaa's appeal against the verdict of a special court in Bangalore which had, on September 23, 2014, sentenced her to four years in prison and asked her to pay a fine of Rs 100 crore. The special court had sentenced Ms. Sasikala, Sudharakan and Ilavarasi  also to four years in prison and fined them Rs 10 crore each.
 
Ms. Jayalalithaa was admitted to the Apollo Hospital here on September 22 and died on December 5 after a sudden cardiac arrest. Doctors who treated her had told a press conference here on Monday that the AIADMK leader had been treated for septicemia and a host of other medical problems.
 
Mr. Panneerselvam was Finance Minister in Ms. Jayalalithaa's Cabinet and was also handling all the portfolios held by her after she was hospitalised on September 22.
 
He had stood in as Chief Minister for Ms. Jayalalithaa twice in the past. On September 29, 2014, he took over the position when Ms. Jayalalithaa resigned after being sentenced to four years in prison by a special court in Bangalore in a corruption case. Ms. Jayalalithaa returned to office on May 23, 2015, twelve days after the Karnataka High Court acquitted her in the 19-year-old corruption case.
 
He had earlier served as Chief Minister for a brief period from September 21, 2001 to March 1, 2002 after the Supreme Court had declared null and void the action of then Governor Fatima Beevi appointing Ms Jayalalithaa to the position as she had been sentenced to two years rigorous imprisonment in another corruption case. Ms Jayalalithaa was cleared of all charges in 2002 and returned as Chief Minister.
 
Ms. Sasikala's control over the party was in evidence in the manner in which she carried out Ms. Jayalalithaa's last rites and then took hold of the reins of the AIADMK a few days later. Since then, there has been a clamour from a group within the AIADMK that, after being chosen as the new General Secretary, she should also take charge of the Government. Ms. Jayalalithaa held both the posts and they argued that it was better if the same person held both positions.
 
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Panneerselvam's resignation accepted, Sasikala likely to be sworn in on Tuesday

Tamil Nadu Governor C. Vidyasagar Rao on Monday accepted the resignation of Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam and his Council of Ministers and his successor, Ms. V. K. Sasikala, a long-time aide of late AIADMK supremo J. Jayalalithaa, is expected to be sworn in on Tuesday.

V. K. Sasikala
V. K. Sasikala
Tamil Nadu Governor C. Vidyasagar Rao today accepted the resignation of Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam and his Council of Ministers and his successor, Ms. V. K. Sasikala, a long-time aide of late AIADMK supremo J. Jayalalithaa, is expected to be sworn in tomorrow.
 
The Governor requested Mr. Panneerselvam and his Council of Ministers to continue to function until alternate arrangements are made, a press release from the Raj Bhavan said.
 
Mr. Panneerselvam, 65, had resigned from office yesterday after the ruling All India Anna Dravid Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) legislature party met here and chose Ms. Sasikala as its new leader.
 
Ms. Sasikala, 60, is expected to be sworn in as the new Chief Minister of the State tomorrow morning at a function at the Madras University auditorium. 
 
Mr. Panneerselvam had been sworn in as the Chief Minister of the state in the early hours of December 6, succeeding Ms. Jayalalithaa who passed away at a private hospital here late night on December 5.
 
"Chinnamma elected as the AIADMK Legislature Party Leader," the AIADMK had said on micro-blogging site Twitter yesterday. Ms. Sasikala is referred to as "Chinamma" by party workers, just as Ms. Jayalalithaa was called "Amma".
 
It said Mr. Panneerselvam himself, known to be a long-time Jayalalithaa loyalist, had proposed Ms. Sasikala's name as the new leader of the AIADMK legislature party leader.
 
"Chinnamma all set to become the next Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu," the party said.
 
Ms. Sasikala had then made a brief appearance in the balcony of Ms. Jalayalalithaa's residence in Poes Garden here, dressed in a green saree and blouse, the AIADMK's colour, and greeted the crowds gathered outside with a "namaste" and then the "V" sign.
 
She later drove to the AIADMK headquarters where she said that it was Mr. Panneerselvam who had urged her first to take charge as General Secretary of the party and it was he who insisted, first, that she become the Chief Minister of the state. Ms. Sasikala has never held any position in Government before nor has she ever contested any elections.
 
She assured the people that her government would always work for the welfare of the people. "Tamil Nadu Government will follow the principles of Amma," she said.
  
Mr. Panneerselvam, 65, was Finance Minister in Ms. Jayalalithaa's Cabinet and was also handling all the portfolios held by her after she was admitted to the Apollo Hospital here on September 22.
 
Mr. Panneerselvam had stood in as Chief Minister for Ms. Jayalalithaa twice in the past. On September 29, 2014, he took over the position when Ms. Jayalalithaa resigned after being sentenced to four years in prison by a special court in Bangalore in a corruption case. Ms. Jayalalithaa returned to office on May 23, 2015, twelve days after the Karnataka High Court acquitted her in the 19-year-old corruption case.
 
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He had earlier served as Chief Minister for a brief period from September 21, 2001 to March 1, 2002 after the Supreme Court had declared null and void the action of then Governor Fatima Beevi appointing Ms Jayalalithaa to the position as she had been sentenced to two years rigorous imprisonment in another corruption case. Ms Jayalalithaa was cleared of all charges in 2002 and returned as Chief Minister.
 
Ms. Sasikala's control over the party was in evidence in the manner in which she carried out Ms. Jayalalithaa's last rites and then took hold of the reins of the AIADMK a few days later. Since then, there has been a clamour from a group within the AIADMK that, after being chosen as the new General Secretary, she should also take charge of the Government. Ms. Jayalalithaa held both the posts and they argued that it was better if the same person held both positions.
 
Ms. Sasikala, along with her nephew Sudhakaran, who is Ms. Jayalalithaa's disowned foster son, and her close relative Ilavarasi , were  co-accused with Ms. Jayalalithaa in an 18-year-old corruption case, in which they were all acquitted by the Karnataka High Court in May 2015. An appeal against the acquittal is pending before the Supreme Court and its verdict in the matter is awaited.
 
The Karnataka High Court had allowed Ms. Jayalalithaa's appeal against the verdict of a special court in Bangalore which had, on September 23, 2014, sentenced her to four years in prison and asked her to pay a fine of Rs 100 crore. The special court had sentenced Ms. Sasikala, Sudharakan and Ilavarasi  also to four years in prison and fined them Rs 10 crore each.
 
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Sasikala Natarajan set to be new CM of Tamil Nadu

All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) General Secretary Sasikala Natarajan, a long-time friend and companion of late party supremo J. Jayalithaa, is all set to become the new Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu after the party's MLAs met in Chennai and chose her as the leader of its legislature party.

 
Sasikala Natarajan appointed legislative party leader of AIADMK
All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) General Secretary Sasikala Natarajan, a long-time friend and companion of late party supremo J. Jayalithaa, is all set to become the new Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu after the party's MLAs met here today and chose her as the leader of its legislative party.
 
She will succeed Mr. O. Panneerselvam, senior leader of the ruling AIADMK, who was sworn in as the Chief Minister of the state in the early hours of December 6, succeeding Ms. Jayalalithaa who passed away at a private hospital here late night on December 5.
 
"Chinnamma elected as the AIADMK Legislature Party Leader," the AIADMK said on micro-blogging site Twitter. 
 
Ms. Sasikala, 60, is referred to as "Chinamma" by party workers, just as Ms. Jayalalithaa was called as "Amma". It said Mr. Panneerselvam had proposed Ms. Sasikala's name as the new leader of the AIADMK legislature party leader.
 
"Chinnamma all set to become the next Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu," the party said.
 
Ms. Sasikala made a brief appearance in the balcony of Ms. Jalayalalithaa's residence in Poes Garden here, dressed in a green saree and blouse, the AIADMK's colour, and greeted the crowds gathered outside with a "namaste" and then the "V" sign.
 
Ms. Sasikala later drove to the AIADMK headquarters where she said that it was Mr. Panneerselvam who had urged her first to take charge as General Secretary of the party and it was he who insisted, first, that she become the Chief Minister of the state. Ms. Sasikala has never held any position in Government before nor has ever contested any elections.
 
She assured the people that her government would always work for the welfare of the people. "Tamil Nadu Government will follow the principles of Amma," she said.
 
She is expected to meet Governor C. Vidyasagar Rao in the next day or two and stake claim to form the next government in the state.
 
Mr. Panneerselvam, 65, was Finance Minister in Ms. Jayalalithaa's Cabinet and was also handling all the portfolios held by her after she was admitted to the Apollo Hospital here on September 22.
 
Mr. Panneerselvam had stood in as Chief Minister for Ms. Jayalalithaa twice in the past. On September 29, 2014, he took over the position when Ms. Jayalalithaa resigned after being sentenced to four years in prison by a special court in Bangalore in a corruption case. Ms. Jayalalithaa returned to office on May 23, 2015, twelve days after the Karnataka High Court acquitted her in the 19-year-old corruption case.
 
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He had earlier served as Chief Minister for a brief period from September 21, 2001 to March 1, 2002 after the Supreme Court had declared null and void the action of then Governor Fatima Beevi appointing Ms Jayalalithaa to the position as she had been sentenced to two years rigorous imprisonment in another corruption case. Ms Jayalalithaa was cleared of all charges in 2002 and returned as Chief Minister.
 
Ms. Sasikala's control over the party was in evidence in the manner in which she carried out Ms. Jayalalithaa's last rites and then took hold of the reins of the AIADMK a few days later. Since then, there has been a clamour from a group within the AIADMK that, after being chosen as the new General Secretary, she should also take charge of the Government. Ms. Jayalalithaa held both the posts and they argued that it was better if the same person held both positions.
 
Ms. Sasikala, along with her nephew Sudhakaran, who is Ms. Jayalalithaa's disowned foster son, and her close relative Ilavarasi , were  co-accused with Ms. Jayalalithaa in an 18-year-old corruption case, in which they were all acquitted by the Karnataka High Court in May 2015. An appeal against the acquittal is pending before the Supreme Court and its verdict in the matter is awaited.
 
The Karnataka High Court had allowed Ms. Jayalalithaa's appeal against the verdict of a special court in Bangalore which had, on September 23, 2014, sentenced her to four years in prison and asked her to pay a fine of Rs 100 crore. The special court had sentenced Ms. Sasikala, Sudharakan and Ilavarasi  also to four years in prison and fined them Rs 10 crore each.
 
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Tamil Nadu CM Jayalalithaa suffers cardiac arrest in hospital

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa, who has been undergoing treatment at the Apollo Hospital in Chennai for the last three months for a lung infection, suffered a cardiac arrest on Sunday evening, the hospital said.

 
Tamil Nadu CM Jayalalithaa suffers cardiac arrest
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa, who has been undergoing treatment at the Apollo Hospital here for the last three months for a lung infection, suffered a cardiac arrest this evening, the hospital said.
 
"The Hon'ble Chief Minister of Tamil Nau who is undergoing treatment at Apollo Hospitals, Greams Road, Chennai, suffered a cardiac arrest this evening," the hospital said in a statement late tonight.
 
"She is being treated and monitored by a team of experts, including Cardiologists, Pulmonologists and the Critical Care Specialists," the statement added.
 
The hospital said Ms. Jayalalithaa was on extracorporeal membrane heart assist device and was being treated by a team of expert doctors and critical care specialists.
 
The hospital said Dr Richard Beale from London had also been consulted and he had concurred with the line of treatment by its cardiologists and pulmonologists.
 
"Our prayers are with her and we hope she will recover soon. We request all of you to pray for her good health and well being. The Hon'ble CM is the beloved leader of the masses. Please join us in praying for her speedy recovery," the hospital said in a series of posts on micro-blogging site Twitter.
 
Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh spoke to Tamil Nadu Governor Chennamaneni Vidyasagar Rao, to inquire about Ms. Jayalalithaa's heath.
 
Mr. Rao, who is the Governor of Maharashtra, is holding additional charge of Tamil Nadu, since August 31 following the end of the tenure of Mr. K. Rosaiah. He told Mr. Rajnath Singh that he would leave for Chennai tonight.
 
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Hundreds of workers of Ms. Jayalalithaa's party, the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), her supporters and leaders of the party began converging outside the hospital after hearing of the news of her cardiac arrest. Police stepped up security arrangements outside the hospital as a precautionary measure.
 
Earlier in the day, the AIADMK had said that Ms. Jayalalithaa would soon decide when she would leave hospital and return home after doctors had declared that she had fully recovered.
 
The hospital has said several times in the past few weeks that the Chief Minister, called "Amma" by her supporters, was well enough to return home whenever she wanted. Her party said she was involved in taking government decisions and also speaking on occasion to those who were allowed to meet her.
 
Ms. Jayalalithaa was admitted to the hospital on September 27 for treatment of dehydration and fever. Later, there were reports that she was also being treated for a chronic lung infection and that he had been put on respiratory support. Specialist doctors from London and Delhi had been flown in to monitor her condition.
 
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Jayalalithaa returns as Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu

AIADMK supremo J Jayalalithaa was sworn in as the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu in Chennai on Saturday, 12 days after the Karnataka High Court acquitted her in an 19-year-old corruption case and paved the way for her return to the top job in the state for the fifth time after a gap of eight months.

 
Jayalalithaa sworn in as Tamil Nadu CM
 
 
All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) supremo J Jayalalithaa was sworn in as the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu here today, 12 days after the Karnataka High Court acquitted her in an 19-year-old corruption case and paved the way for her return to the top job in the state for the fifth time after a gap of eight months.
 
Tamil Nadu Governor K Rosaiah administered the oaths of offie and secrecy to Ms Jayalalithaa at a ceremony at the Madras University Centenary Auditorium.
 
Along with Ms Jayalalithaa, 67, as many as 28 other Ministers were also sworn in, including Mr O. Panneerselvam, who had functioned as Chief Minister since September 29 after she had been forced to resign following her conviction by a special court in Bangalore in the case.
 
Mr Panneerselvam will be Finance Minister, a portfolio he had held in her previous Cabinet.
 
The Governor had accepted the resignation of Mr. Panneerselvam and his Council of Ministers with effect from the forenoon of yesterday and requested him and his Council of Ministers to function until alternative arrangements were made.
 
Later yesterday, Ms Jayalalithaa, who was elected as the leader of the AIADMK Legislature Party, had called on Mr Rosaiah and staked her claim to form the new government.
 
Ms Jayalalithaa will have to get elected to the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly within six months in keeping with Constitutional requirements.
 
Mr Panneerselvam had earlier served as Chief Minister for a brief period from September 21, 2001 to March 1, 2002 after the Supreme Court had declared null and void the action of then Governor Fatima Beevi appointing Ms Jayalalithaa to the position as she had been sentenced to two years rigorous imprisonment in another corruption case. Like this tim, she was then, too, cleared of all charges in 2002 and had returned as Chief Minister.
 
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On May 11, the Karnataka High Court allowed Ms Jayalalithaa's appeal against the verdict of the special court in Bangalore which had, on September 23, 2014, sentenced her to four years in prison and asked her to pay a fine of Rs 100 crore.
 
Mr Justice C R Kumaraswamy said the appeals by Ms Jayalalithaa and the three co-accused had been allowed and that they were acquitted of all charges.
 
Ms Jayalalithaa had also been barred by the special court from contesting elections and that verdict had meant that she had been disqualified as a member of the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly and ceased to be the Chief Minister of the state. The acquittal by the High Court meant that Ms Jayalalithaa could return as Chief Minister.
 
The three co-accused who were acquitted along with her are her close aide Sasikala Natarajan, Sasikala's nephew and Jayalalithaa's disowned foster son Sudhakaran and Sasikala's close relative Ilavarasi, who were also convicted in the case and sentenced to four years in prison and fined Rs 10 crore each by the special court.
 
Sasikala was among the more than 3000 people present at the ceremony. Others present included film stars Rajnikanth, Sarath Kumar and Prabhu and industrialists N Srinivasan and A C Muthaiah.
 
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Jayalalithaa acquitted in corruption case, paving way for her return as TN CM

Former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa was on Monday acquitted by the Karnataka High Court in Bangalore in an 18-year-old corruption case, clearing the way for her return to the top job in her state.

File photo of J. Jayalalithaa.
File photo of J. Jayalalithaa.
Former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa was today acquitted by the Karnataka High Court here in an 18-year-old corruption case, clearing the way for her return to the top job in her state.
 
The High Court allowed Ms Jayalalithaa's appeal against the verdict of a special court in Bangalore which had, on September 23, 2014, sentenced her to four years in prison and asked her to pay a fine of Rs 100 crore.
 
Reading out the operative part of the judgement at 11 am in the court, Mr Justice C R Kumaraswamy said the appeals by Ms Jayalalithaa and the three co-accused had been allowed and that they were acquitted of all charges.
 
Ms Jayalalithaa, 67, had also been barred by the special court from contesting elections and that verdict had meant that she had been disqualified as a member of the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly and ceased to be the Chief Minister of the state.
 
Today's acquittal means that Ms Jayalithaa, supremo of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), can return as Chief Minister.
 
After she had stepped down, senior AIADMK leader O. Panneerselvam was sworn in as the new Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu on September 29 last year.
 
Mr Panneerselvam, 63, had earlier served as Chief Minister for a brief period from September 21, 2001 to March 1, 2002 after the Supreme Court had declared null and void the action of then Governor Fatima Beevi appointing Ms Jayalalithaa to the position as she had been sentenced to two years rigorous imprisonment in another corruption case. She was later cleared of all charges in 2002 and had returned as Chief Minister.
 
Ms Jayalalithaa, a film star-turned-politician, and the three co-accused persons were accused by the prosecution of amassing assets valued at Rs 66.65 crore disproportionate to their known sources of income from 1991-96 during her first term in office.
 
The special court had sentenced the co-accused -- her close aide Sasikala Natarajan, Sasikala's nephew Sudharakan, who is Jayalalithaa's disowned foster son, and Sasikala's close relative Ilavarasi -- also to four years in prison and fined them Rs 10 crore each.
 
 
Jayalalithaa acquitted by Karnataka HC in corruption case
Celebrations broke out among Ms Jayalalithaa's supporters all across Tamil Nadu as well as outside the high court here, where they had gathered in large numbers.
 
Hundreds of people who had congregated outside her Poes Garden residence in Chennai since early morning burst firecrackers, danced and distributed sweets as soon as news of the verdict by Mr Justice C R Kumaraswamy ame in.
 
Mr Panneerselvam and many of his Cabinet colleagues also turned up to congratulate her.
 
On October 17 last year, Ms Jayalalithaa had been granted bail by the Supreme Court in the case after the Karnataka High Court had turned down her application.
 
Along with her, the apex court also granted bail to Ms Natarajan, Mr Sudhakaran and Mr Ilavarasi.
 
The case was filed in 1997 by the Tamil Nadu government's Department of Vigilance and Anti-Corruption (DVAC) during the tenure of Ms Jayalalithaa's rival and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) leader M Karunanidhi as Chief Minister.
 
The Supreme Court ordered the case to be transferred to a special court in Bangalore in 2003 on a petition filed by DMK leader K Anbazhagan, who had expressed doubts about a fair trial in Tamil Nadu after Jayalalithaa returned as Chief Minister.
 
The prosecution had alleged that Jayalalithaa had just Rs 3 crore when she took over as Chief Minister for the first time in 1991 and had taken a token salary of just Re 1, but her wealth and that of her three co-accused had grown to Rs 66.6 crore during her five years in office, vastly disproportionate to her known sources of income.
 
The alleged wealth included 2000 acres of land, 30 kg of gold and thousands of sarees. She was also accused of spending more than Rs 5 crore on her foster son's wedding in 1996, though she had claimed that the expenditure was borne by the bride's family.
 
Ms Jayalalithaa had all along maintained that the case was an act of political vendetta by the DMK. Among other things, she had agued that her previous assets were undervalued, her property was overvalued and her income from various sources were not taken into account.
 
In 2011, Jayalalithaa had appeared in the Bangalore court for four days to answer more than 1390 questions posed by the judge.
 
In the Lok Sabha elections last year, the AIADMK had made a near clean sweep in Tamil Nadu, winning 37 of the 39 seats from the state.
 
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SC grants bail to former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa

The Supreme Court on Friday granted bail to former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa, who was convicted by a special court in Bangalore on September 27 in an 18-year-old corruption case and sentenced to four years in prison and asked to pay a fine of Rs 100 crore.

File photo of J. Jayalalithaa.
File photo of J. Jayalalithaa.
The Supreme Court today granted bail to former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa, who were convicted by a special court in Bangalore on September 27 in an 18-year-old corruption case and sentenced to four years in prison and asked to pay a fine of Rs 100 crore.
 
Along with Ms Jayalalithaa, 66, the apex court also granted bail to her close aide Sasikala Natarajan, Sasikala's nephew and Jayalalithaa's disowned foster son Sudhakaran and Sasikala's close relative Ilavarasi, who were also convicted in the case and sentenced to four years in prison and fined Rs 10 crore each.
 
The Karnataka High Court had, on October 7, rejected Ms Jayalalithaa's bail application. While doing so, Judge A V Chandrashekhara recalled that the Supreme Court had made it clear in the past that corruption cases should be put on the fast track. He pointed out that the apex court had taken a tough stand in such cases and had described corruption as a "violation of human rights".
 
Ms Jayalalithaa and the three co-accused persons were accused by the prosecution of amassing assets valued at Rs 66.65 crore disproportionate to their known sources of income from 1991-96 during her first term in office.
 
The All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) supremo had moved the Supreme Court for bail on October 9.
 

 
Jayalalithaa granted interim bail by SC in DA case
The apex court today suspended her sentence and granted her bail after imposing some conditions, including that she would have to submit her paprs for the appeal against her conviction within two months, that is by December 18, and that she would not seek any adjournment of the hearings. 
 
As soon as news of the court's decision to grant her bail came, hundreds of supporters of Ms Jayalalithaa in Chennai and elsewhere broke out into rapturous celebrations.
 
Ms Jayalalithaa, who has been held in prison in Bangalore since September 27, is expected to be released on bail later today or tomorrow. She will remain confined to home in Chennai while she is on bail.
 
The court fixed December 18 as the date to satisfy itself if she had complied with its order.
 
Her counsel Fali Nariman assured the court on her behalf that there would be no act of lawlessness by her party's workers in Tamil Nadu. She had sought bail on the grounds that she was suffering from various ailments and that she was a senior citizen and a woman.
 
Ms Jayalalithaa stood disqualified as a member of the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly after her conviction and sentence and had to resign as Chief Minister. She is also barred from contesting elections for six years after she completes her four-year sentence.
 
The case was filed in 1997 by the Tamil Nadu government's Department of Vigilance and Anti-Corruption (DVAC) during the tenure of Jayalalithaa's rival and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) leader M Karunanidhi as Chief Minister.
 
The Supreme Court ordered the case to be transferred to a special court in Bangalore in 2003 on a petition filed by DMK leader K Anbazhagan, who had expressed doubts about a fair trial in Tamil Nadu after Jayalalithaa returned as Chief Minister.
 
The prosecution had alleged that Ms Jayalalithaa had just Rs 3 crore when she took over as Chief Minister for the first time in 1991 and had taken a token salary of just Re 1, but her wealth and that of her three co-accused had grown to Rs 66.6 crore during her five years in office, vastly disproportionate to her known sources of income.
 
The alleged wealth included 2000 acres of land, 30 kg of gold and thousands of sarees. She was also accused of spending more than Rs 5 crore on her foster son's wedding in 1996, though she had claimed that the expenditure was borne by the bride's family.
 
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The court held that the prosecution had been able to prove that she possessed disproportionate assets of about Rs 53 crore. 
 
Ms Jayalalithaa had all along maintained that the case was an act of political vendetta by the DMK. Among other things, she had agued that her previous assets were undervalued, her property was overvalued and her income from various sources were not taken into account.
 
In the Lok Sabha elections held earlier this year, the AIADMK had made a near clean sweep in Tamil Nadu, winning 37 of the 39 seats from the state and emerging as the third largest party in the House.
 
Elections to the Tamil Nadu Assembly are due in 2016 and unless her conviction is overturned by a higher court, Ms Jayalalithaa cannot contest them.
 
After Ms Jayalalithaa stepped down, senior AIADMK leader O. Panneerselvam was sworn in as the new Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu on September 29.
 
Mr Panneerselvam, 63, had earlier served as Chief Minister for a brief period from September 21, 2001 to March 1, 2002 after the Supreme Court had declared null and void the action of then Governor Fatima Beevi appointing Ms Jayalalithaa to the position as she had been sentenced to two years rigorous imprisonment in another corruption case.
 
Ms Jayalalithaa was later cleared of all charges in 2002 and had returned as Chief Minister.
 
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L&T launches Indian Navy’s Floating Dock near Chennai

The first indigenously built Floating Dock (FDN-2) for the Indian Navy was launched by Ms. Anjali Deshpande, wife of Vice-Admiral D M Deshpande, Controller of Warship Production & Acquisition, at a ceremony at Larsen & Toubro Ltd (L&T) Shipyard at Kattupalli near Chennai today.
 
The dock was designed and built for the Navy at L&T's greenfield shipyard at Kattupalli.
 
After formal welcome by Vice-Admiral B Kannan (Retd), Head of Ship Building, L&T, the ceremony commenced with an address by  Vice-Admiral  Deshpande. Thereafter in accordance with the traditions, Ms. Deshpande applied ‘Kumkum’ on the Floating Dock. She wished the dock good luck and launched the vessel.
 
Speaking on the occasion, Vice-Admiral Deshpande commended L&T for their efforts in the design and construction of FDN-2. He brought out that launching of the indigenously built floating dock bears testimony to the capabilities available in India for realising the ‘Make in India’ vision. He extended warm felicitations to the entire team of L&T for the achievement.
 
Floating Dock is an indigenously designed and built platform with state-of-the-art machinery & control systems capable of docking warships of up to 8000 tons displacement.  It has high capacity ballast pumps, along with advanced automated ballast control system. The dock covers provided with the FDN-2 facilitate repair and refit activities in inclement weather conditions.
 
The launch of Floating Dock (FDN-2), Yard 55000, is a milestone in India’s quest for self-reliance in shipbuilding, the release said.
 
A press release from L&T said the event marked a significant achievement for L&T’s shipbuilding arm in design, construction and project management of defence vessels.
 
L&T was mandated by the Ministry of Defence in May 2015 to design and build the FDN-2 for an order value of Rs. 468 crore. 
 
"The floating dock will be delivered at Port Blair well within contracted schedule, reaffirming L&T’s capabilities to execute and deliver defence projects on time using Indian design, indigenous technologies and construction skills," it said.
 
On completion of its launch at Kattupalli, FDN-2 would be put through a series of harbour trials before delivery to the Navy. Once operationalised, it would enhance the technical repair infrastructure of the Navy for ships based at the Andaman & Nicobar Islands as well as for visiting Naval ships.
 
Commenting on the launch, Mr. S.N. Subrahmanyan, Managing Director (Designate) and President, Larsen & Toubro, said: “While winning our first mandate from the Indian Navy was satisfying, I am particularly delighted that we have also been able to execute and deliver the FDN-2 well within schedule.”
 
“We are pleased to have delivered on the faith reposed in us by the Indian Navy for our in-house capabilities of design and construction of Naval platforms, meeting stringent standards and specifications and at the same time achieving them with exemplary Program Management practices well-within contracted timelines,” Mr. Subrahmanyan added.
 
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The Floating Dock, which is the first Naval shipbuilding project for L&T, is 185m long and 40m wide, and is designed for docking Indian Naval ships and submarines of up to 8000 T displacement with draughts of up to 7 m, during both day and night. Simultaneous docking of multiple ships, and off-centre docking options are also feasible. The entire design and construction process has been progressively certified by Lloyds Register of Shipping Society and overseen by the Navy’s resident team at Kattupalli. 
 
“The main challenge faced on this project, as it would characteristically be in any first ship of a class, pertained to managing design and production activities concurrently,” said Vice-Admiral Kannan. “We have achieved a high level on this through Digital Shipbuilding technologies as well as through a focused approach of ‘getting it right first time’ duly reinforced by the rich work ethics of L&T.”
 
The Floating Dock has been designed as a versatile dock that can be installed either along a jetty or moored in calm waters enabling round-the-year operation. It is provided with a hauling-in system to handle a ship’s docking and undocking operations. It can also support ships berthed along its side and meet their logistics requirements.
 
L&T has also been mandated by the Coast Guard to design and build seven Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPVs). Two of these OPVs are to be launched in the second half of this financial year, on schedule.
 
In addition, L&T is also undertaking repairs and refits of Naval and Coast Guard ships regularly and delivered six refit ships (including the largest Logistics Tanker ship INS Jyoti) from its shipyard at Kattupalli, which now is focusing only on Defence orders. 
 
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SC orders NEET-UG results to be declared, CBSE to do so in two weeks

The Supreme Court on Monday issued an interim order directing the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) to declare the results of the National Eligibility and Entrance Test (NEET) Undergraduate (UG) conducted by it on May 7.

The Supreme Court today issued an interim order directing the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) to declare the results of the National Eligibility and Entrance Test (NEET) Undergraduate (UG) conducted by it on May 7.
 
While doing so, the vacation bench comprising Mr. Justice Prafulla C. Pant and Mr. Justice Deepak Gupta, stayed an interim order passed by the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court on May 24, staying the declaration of the results.
 
The CBSE, which conducts NEET, said it would declare the results by June 26 as the apex court's order. The results were originally scheduled to be declared on June 8.
 
The Supreme Court clarified that the declaration of the results and admission of students to medical colelges shall be subject to the decision of the special leave petitions on which the Madras High Court had issued its interim order.
 
The apex court also requested all High Courts not to entertain any writ petitions in the matter. The special leave petitions will now be listed before the Supreme Court immediately after the summer vacation.
 
The court noted that the counsels for the CBSE and other petitioners, who  had appealed against the Madras High Court stay, had submitted that the interim direction issued by the High Court was directly against the spirit of the order passed by the apex court whereby a schedule had been fixed for declaration of the results.
 
"In view of the above, we are inclined to pass interim order. The impugned order is stayed and it is directed that the authorities concerned may further proceed with the National Eligibility and Entrance Test (NEET) for under Graduate (UG) conducted on 07.05.2017. It is clarified that the declaration of the result and admission shall be subject to the decision of these special leave petitions. The High Courts are requested not to entertain the writ petitions in the matter.
 
"List these petitions immediately after summer vacation," the order said.
 
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NEET-UG is held by the CBSE for admission to MBBS and BDS courses in India and as many as 11.35 candidates had registered for the test this year -- the highest ever for the examination. The examination was held in 103 cities across the country.
 
The Madras High Court had stayed the declaration of the results after being told that the NEET-UG question papers in English and Hindi, on the one hand, and in eight other regional languages, on the other, were different.
 
The CBSE had prayed for an urgent hearing on its appeal, stating that the delay in declaration of results would delay the completion of admission to UG courses in medical colleges.
 
It said that it had decided to frame different question papers so that, in the event of a leak, it would not have to cancel the entire examination.
 
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Gadkari inaugurates new projects at Kamarajar Port in Tamil Nadu

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Union Minister of Shipping, Road Transport & Highways Nitin Gadkari today said an investment of Rs. 2.5 lakh crore was being made in Tamil Nadu under the Sagarmala project.
 
Of this, Rs. 39,000 crore will be for port modernisation, Rs. 55,000 crore for port connectivity and Rs. 1.5 lakh crore for port-led industrialisation, he said after inaugurating several new projects at Kamarajar Port in the state.
 
The projects inaugurated today include a new container terminal worth Rs. 1270 crore, a new multi-cargo terminal worth Rs. 151 crore, railway line to container and multi-cargo terminal worth Rs. 60 crore, and RFID system worth Rs. 11.82 crore. 
 
Mr. Gadkari said the work being done under Sagarmala is estimated to create about 2 lakh direct jobs in the state in the next two years.
 
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Nine MPs chosen for Sansad Ratna Awards 2017

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Nine Members of Parliament (MPs) -- six from the Lok Sabha and three from the Rajya Sabha -- have been chosen  for the Sansad Ratna Awards for 2017 for their outstanding performance in the just concluded sessions of both Houses of Parliament.
 
Kerala Governor Justice P Sathasivam will confer these awards at a function at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Madras here tomorrow.
 
IIT Madras is a partner with Chennai-based NGO Prime Point Foundation and e-magazine PreSense, which have been giving awards to top performing MPs since 2010.
 
The awards were instituted by the foundation on a suggestion given by the then President of India A P J Adul Kalam that good work by people's representatives in Parliament should be recognised and awarded. 
 
Shrirang Appa Barve (Shiv Sena--Mavel--Maharashtra), Rajeev Shankar Rao Satav (INC--Hingoli--Maharashtra)  and Dhananjay Bhimrao Mahadi (Nationalist Congress Party--Kolhapur--Maharashtra) were nominated by the jury for awards under different categories of debates, questions, discussions and so on.
 
Bhatruhari Mahtab (Biju Janata Dal – Cuttack – Odisha) and N K Premachandran (Revolutionary Socialist Party -- Kollam --Kerala) , have been nominated for special awards by the jury for their excellence in quality of debates and other parliamentary proceedings.
 
K Srinivasan , Chairman of the Prime Point Foundation, told newspersons here today that Dr Heena Vijaykumar Gavit, the youngest MP of BJP from Nandurbar, Maharashtra has been nominated for the award under the Women MP category. NCP’s Supriya Sule had won this award twice in previous years.
 
The foundation commernced honouring outstanding Rajya Sabha members who had retired the previous year after the completion of their full six-year term. This year Sanjay Raut , Shiv Sena, Maharashtra, K N Balagopal, CPI-M, Kerala and Dr T N Seema, CPI-M Kerala, have been nominated among the Rajya Sabha MPs who retired in 2016 after putting in an outstanding performance highlighting issues of public interest.
 
The jury was headed by Anandrao Adsul, veteran MP from Shiv  Sena, and included Union Minister of State for Home Affairs Hansraj Ahir and Minister of State for Finance Arjun Ram Meghwal.
 
Alongside the awards ceremony, a seminar on politics, democracy and governance will also be held with the participation of well-known political leaders, journalists and educationists.
 
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Kannada television actress Rega Sindhu dies in road mishap near Vellore

Rega Sindhu
Rega Sindhu
Rega Sindhu, a young Kannada and Tamil television actress, died when the car she was travelling in hit the median and overturned near Vellore in Tamil Nadu, on the Chennai-Bengaluru highway, in the early hours of today.
 
Three others with her in the vehicle, including a woman and the owner-driver of the car, suffered injuries in the incident, Vellore Superintendent of Police P Pakalavan told NetIndian over the telephone.
 
The 23-year-old actress was on her way back from a shooting schedule in Chennai to Bengaluru, where she lived, when the mishap occurred around 2 am today.
 
According to Mr. Pakalavan, Rega Sindhu died on the spot, while the injured were taken to a nearby hospital. The woman co-passenger returned to Chennai later, while the two men were admitted to the hospital for treatment.
 
He said the police had launched an investigation into the incident.
 
The driver of the vehicle appeared to have lost control over the wheel and the car hit the median on the highway at Sunnampukuttai near Pernambut and and overturned two or three times before coming to a halt, he added.
 
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Shriram Properties, Xander ink $350 million deal for Chennai SEZ

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Shriram Properties and Xander Group have signed a $350 million (about Rs. 2290 crore) deal under which Xander has acquired 100% interest in Shriram's Gateway Special Economic Zone (SEZ) in Chennai for $ 190 million (Rs. 1250 crore) with a further commitment of $ 160 million (Rs 1040 crore) towards expansion of the IT SEZ.
 
This is one of the largest private equity (PE) deals witnessed in the real estate space in India and involves 1.7 million square feet of occupied and operational SEZ, and a partnership with Shriram Properties to deliver the under construction 1.9 million square feet, a press release from the two companies said.
 
Shriram Gateway, is a 58-acre integrated township project including office space, a shopping mall and residential apartments.  Shriram will continue to develop and own the residential and retail components comprising 2.6 million square feet while Xander will have the ability to develop an additional 1 million square feet of office space.
 
“This acquisition demonstrates our continued interest in large, well-positioned assets with growth potential across gateway cities in India, and nicely complements our existing office portfolio," said Rohan Sikri, Senior Partner, The Xander Group. 
 
“We are pleased to be working with Shriram Properties to expand our existing Chennai footprint.  We see the opportunity to deliver additional high-quality supply in a market where vacancy is rapidly falling.  As always, our team will be focused on tenant experience and satisfaction, which is a high priority across the portfolio," he added.
 
Shriram Gateway is the first integrated township in Chennai comprising a large office campus with 4.6 million square feet of SEZ and IT office space. The campus currently provides employment for over 20,000 employees which will grow to an estimated 50,000 employees by 2020. Accenture is currently the largest tenant.
 
“The project offers a plethora of opportunities and is a source of employment generation across various sectors in Tamil Nadu. The mixed use, commercial cum residential project is a benchmark in the industry, and we plan to develop many such projects across cities in India. We are also delighted to join our hands with The Xander Group and enhance our position as a leader in India’s real estate space,” said M. Murali, Managing Director, Shriram Properties.
 
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“The project is strategically located near Tambaram and is very well connected to both the city and suburbs. Further addition of residential, office and retail space over the next three years will make it the most strategic location to invest in Chennai,” he said.
 
The comes close on the heels of the recent announcement by Shriram Properties on their plans to invest Rs 15,000 crore over the next 7-8 years for the development of around 30 ongoing projects, across six major cities - Chennai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Vizag, Coimbatore and Kolkata. 
 
Shriram Properties holds close to 2% of the FDI in India, the largest by a single developer. Their key investors include Walton Street, Starwood capital, TPG Capital, Tata Opportunities Fund, ASK, Motilal Oswal, Amplus and ICICI Prudential, the release added.
 
The Xander Group Inc. is a global investment firm focused on real estate, infrastructure, hospitality, retail and credit in emerging markets. Since 2005, the firm has committed over $ 2.3 billion equity capital to the Indian market across private, public, credit and venture investments.
 
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ECI rescinds assembly bye-election in TN because of bribing of voters

The Election Commission of India has rescinded the bye-election to the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly from the Dr. Radhakrishnan Nagar constituency, slated for April 12, because the electoral process had been "seriously vitiated" by unlawful activities of candidates and political parties, including bribing of voters.

 
The Election Commission of India (ECI) has rescinded the bye-election to the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly from the Dr. Radhakrishnan Nagar constituency, slated for April 12, because the electoral process had been "seriously vitiated" by unlawful activities of candidates and political parties, including bribing of voters.
 
"....the Commission hereby directs, under Article 324 of the Constitution read with sections 150, 30 and 56 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, and further read with Section 21 of the General Clauses Act, 1897 and all other powers enabling it in this behalf, that the Commission’s Notification 100/TN-LA/1/2017, dated 16th March 2017, calling upon the said 11-Dr.Radhakrishnan Nagar Assembly Constituency to elect a member to the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly shall stand rescinded forthwith," an order from the Commission, dated yesterday, said.
 
It said that, consequently, all actions and steps taken by the Returning Officer of the constituency, District Election Officer, Chennai District and all other electoral authorities concerned were declared as null and void.
 
The order also said that the bye-election to fill the vacancy from the constituency, which arose on the death of then Chief Minister and ruling AIADMK supremo J. Jayalalithaa on December 5, 2016, shall beheld in due course when the vitiating effect created by the distribution of money and gift items to allure the electors got removed with the passage of time and the atmosphere in the constituency became conducive to the holding of free and fair election.
 
The Commission had issued the notification for the bye-election on March 16 and March 23 was the last date for making nominations.
 
The order, signed by Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi and Election Commissioners  O. P. Rawat and A. K. Joti, noted that the Commission had made elaborate arrangements for the conduct of a free and fair poll in the constituency and that it had, in this regard, issued extensive guidelines for monitoring of expenditure of the candidates and political parties, enforcement of the Model Code of Conduct, maintenance of law and order, and so on.
 
It said that, immediately on announcement of the bye- election, on 10th March, 2017, the enforcement of MCC was commenced by putting in place 9 Flying Squad Teams (FSTs), 9 Static Surveillance Teams (SSTs) and 2 Video Surveillance Teams (VSTs). Subsequently, the numbers of teams were increased in a phased manner, considering complaints by the candidates, political parties and inputs from the observers and electoral machinery, to 30 FSTs, 21 SSTs and 10 VSTs per day as on 5th April,2017 and they were operating round the clock.
 
Generally in an assembly constituency, only 3 FSTs and 3 SSTs team are deployed during any election, but, for this bye-election, the deployment of these squads was increased manifold and total of 61 teams were deployed keeping in view the sensitiveness of the constituency and past experience, it said.
 
Each FST/SST included a 7-member team with one Executive Magistrate, 4 CAPF personnel, one person from the state police and one videographer. VST is a 3 member team with one employee of the state government and one from state police. Thus, a total of 277 persons in 61 teams operating round the clock were put on job for enforcing the provisions of MCC, particularly, stopping distribution of cash or gifts in any form, it said.
 
The Commission said that, furthermore, one Central Government employee was included in each FST from April 7 onwards, Similrly all FSTS and SSTs had a CAPF personnel attached with it. Their vehicles were GPS enabled in order to ensure that their position and movement could be monitored from a central control room. 
 
An SMS based complaint monitoring system wherein the FST/SST received a complaint through SMS for gift and cash distribution was also used. SMS- and GPS-based monitoring was to ensure that there is no delay in movement of these teams to attend to the complaints, a camera was also fixed on the top of vehicles so as to monitor how the complaints were handled by the teams after reaching the spot, which was monitored from the DEO’s control room.
 
Considering a large number of complaints, apart from deployment of these teams, as a first time measure, 70 mobile parties on two-wheelers were also additionally deployed from April 6 onwards. Each team consisted of one Micro Observer along with one police personnel. The total 70 teams, comprising 140 members, were deployed (21 Teams in Morning Shift, 21 Teams in Afternoon Shift and 28 Teams in Night Shift) from April 6 onwards, the Commission said.
 
Furthermore, 10 companies of the Central Armed Police Force (CAPF) were deployed for area domination and confidence-building among the voters to ensure free, fair and inducement-free election, it said. The deployment of CAPF was also doubled. ency. These companies got placed in the constituency from April 2 itself and were deployed at check posts and FST and SST. To prevent any violence before and during the polls, doubtful licensed arms were deposited. As 195 persons were bound under the Criminal Procedure Code (Cr.PC) and 94 non-bailable warrants (NBWs) were executed, it said.
 
The Commission said it had also deployed three senior observers additionally exclusively for the constituency. To strengthen supervision, it deployed three more special observers to the constituency, taking the number of observers to six, which was the highest deployment of central observers to any assembly constituency.
 
"The ECI was thus not leaving any stone unturned to ensure free and fair election," the Commission said.
 
It said that a team of senior officers of the Commission also visited the State to have feedback of the political parties, candidates and general public and based on their report the Commission made some additional arrangements. CCTV/surveillance cameras were deployed in major streets and junctions in the constituency to record the movement of vehicles and undesirable elements.
 
A highly visible campaign was launched to popularise the toll-free number of the control room and to make people aware about the penal provisions on bribing of voters throughout the constituency. Web casting was ordered to be done in all the 256 polling stations. 
 
Micro observers were deployed in all the 256 booths. Micro observers  were to be appointed from employees of Central Government, who were to supervise the voting procedure in the booths and report to the Commission through the Observers. Central Government / PSU employees were to be deployed as Presiding Officer or Polling Officer and at least one member of the team was drawn from amongst PSU / Central Government employees.
 
More than a dozen Income Tax officials were assigned duty to attend to the complaints of storage / distribution of money, both inside and outside the constituency. Surveillance was also stepped up at important places like Railway Stations, Airport, bus stands, taxi and auto stands.
 
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All the IT applications like SWC ( single window clearance), vehicle bill payments, and SMS complaint monitoring system used during general elections 2016 and other elections were also deployed for this election.
 
A special team of two IAS and two IPS officers was put in the night duty rounds till the completion of election.
 
According to the Commission, for attending complaints of distribution of money outside the constituency, Special Flying Squads were assigned to check them. A separate set of 5 FSTs were deployed for this purpose. These FSTs could visit any area in the Chennai and neighbouring districts.
 
Based on the complaints of political parties, the Election Commission transferred, totally 22 police officials and 18 officers of the revenue side. Further, one Assistant Commissioner, two Executive Engineers, four Assistant Executive Engineers and four Assistant Engineers were transferred.
 
The Commission issued special instructions to the effect that no Government vehicle belonging to any department, political leader, Minister should be allowed to move in the constituency and vehicles should be subjected to check without any hesitation.
 
The Commission said it had received many complaints about the possibilities of inducement of electors by distribution of cash and gifts in innovative forms like tokens, pre-paid mobile telephone recharge coupons, newspaper subscriptions, milk tokens, money transfer in no frill accounts in banks and even mobile wallet payment to mobile numbers. The ECI had put an elaborate system for prevention of any such malpractices, it said.
 
These included monitoring of transactions in bank accounts, top-up of mobile phone charges, newspaper agents and milk vendors. Teams of Sales Tax (commercial tax) department were pressed into service to immediately verify sale of goods through tokens.
 
The Commission said detailed enquiries were conducted on various complaints received relating to inducement/bribing of voters. On the complaints of distribution of money, gift articles and violation of MCC, till 7.4.2017 an amount of Rs. 18,80,700 was seized and 35 FIRs were registered. Apart from cash, various items such as lamps, T-shirts, silver plates, mobile phones and sarees, which were used for distribution to workers, were also seized.
 
According to it, a total of 35 first information reports (FIRs) were registered on complaints of cash or gift distribution.
 
The Income Tax department informed the Commission on April 8 that, on the basis of information on tax evasion and distribution of cash, search and seizure actions under Section 132 of Income Tax Act 1961, were conducted at 21 places in Chennai and 11 outside Chennai in Tamil Nadu belonging to Dr. C. Vijaya Baskar, Minister for Health, Government of Tamil Nadu and his associates.
 
Prominent among his associates who were searched are Sarath Kumar, film actor and President, Samathuva Makkal Katchi; Rajendran, AIADMK leader and former MP(2009); and Dr. S. Geetha Lakshmi, Director of Health Services (TN) and Vice Chancellor of Dr. MGR Medical University. 
 
The Income Tax authorities also informed the Commission that several complaints were received recently indicating that Dr. Baskar is the main person involved in bribing the voters in the constituency. Some loose sheets were found with his accountant Mr. Srinivasan indicating distribution of Rs. 89 crore to a number of politicians for further distribution among the voters. The premises of Rajendran were also searched on receiving the input from a central agency that a huge amount of cash was brought there by particular vehicle, for distribution in the constituency.
 
In all, IT officials seized Rs. 5 crore from the confidantes of Dr. Baskar and from his native place. Incriminating documents in the form of overall money distribution chart to several leading political executives and functionaries totaling Rs. 89 crore were found from his premises. Further,  distribution charts, ward-wise and voter-wise, entrusted to each of these politician totaling to Rs. 89 crore were found and seized from the room allotted to Dr. Baskar in the MLAs' hostel. A lot of incriminating material including voters lists, marking against each voter either DMK or AIADMK, and amount to be paid and paid in some cases, were also found and seized, the Commission said.
 
"The above mentioned search and seizure action by the Income Tax authorities has resulted in unraveling a huge and systematic design to distribute money to voters in order to induce/bribe them to influence their voting behaviour.
 
"The election machinery was always on the state of alert and on receipt of the complaint over phone/whatsapp the Teams FST /SST were alerted and they reached the area mentioned by the complainant . The teams have seized cash totaling approximately Rs 31.91 lakhs while being distributed. Thirty-two FIRs were registered and 74 persons were arrested. Similarly, eight FIRs were registered for distribution of gifts and eight persons were arrested," it said.
 
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The Commission said the General Observer to the constituency had reported that “… The bye-elections in Dr R.K Nagar AC has proved to be very sensitive and challenging for the election machinery from the point of view of use of money and material inducement to voters, violation of MCC and law and order. Large number of allegations and counter allegations of money and material distribution to induce the voters keep pouring in.”
 
The Special Observer- 2 Expenditure reported that “Large number of complaints was received by control room that senior party including some of the ministers of ruling party and other dominant party leaders were distributing cash to voters. The information was also shared with the senior officers of Income Tax."
 
"The Commission has carefully analyzed and examined the whole situation as prevailing in the said constituency. From the very early stages of the notification of the bye-election, the Commission started receiving complaints in large numbers with regard to the distribution of money and other gifts in the form of consumable items, etc., to the electors of the said 11-Dr.Radhakrishnan Nagar Assembly Constituency by the candidates and political parties in the election fray. As a counter move to check these illegal activities of the candidates and political parties, the Commission took several proactive steps to curb these activities. As many as 21 Static Surveillance Teams, 30 Flying Squad Teams and 10 Video Surveillance Teams, headed by senior officers, were deployed in the constituency to keep a constant vigil on the above mentioned unlawful activities of the candidates, political parties and their agents. In addition, as another extraordinary step, three senior officers belonging to Indian Revenue Service were appointed as Expenditure Observers by the Commission under section 20B of the said Act, who were assisted by Assistant Expenditure Observers in the constituency. Despite the above special measures adopted by the Commission, it is apparent from the facts narrated above that inducement and allurements to electors by the candidates, political parties and their agents by distribution of money and other gift items on a large scale went on in clandestine manner vitiating the purity of electoral process and disturbing the level playing field.
 
"It may be noted that the election law seriously frowns upon the acts of ‘bribery’ at elections and those indulging in such acts are visited with severe penalties under the law. The ‘bribery’ at elections to any person with the object of inducing him or any other person to exercise any electoral right or, even inducing or attempting to induce any person to exercise any such right, is an electoral offence under section 171B of the Indian Penal Code, and is punishable with imprisonment of either description for a term extending upto one year or, with fine, or with both. Any conviction for the offence of ‘bribery’, even if resulting in the imposition of a very nominal fine, will automatically disqualify the convicted person for a minimum period of six years under section 8(1) of Representation of the People Act, 1951. Further, such ‘bribery’ at elections is also a corrupt practice under section 123(1) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 which can result in the election of the returned candidate being declared void and the candidate found guilty of commission of such corrupt practice can also be disqualified by the President on the recommendation of the Commission for a further period of six years.
 
"The above provisions in the law, making ‘bribery’ an electoral offence and also a corrupt practice, have been made with the manifest object of ensuring purity of the election process. Purity of electoral process has been placed at higher pedestal than even the secrecy of ballot which is considered to be sacrosanct in democratic elections," it said.
 
"Having regard to the above constitutional and legal position enjoining upon the Commission the duty of conducting free and fair elections and upholding the purity of election and after taking into account all relevant facts and circumstances of the present case, the Commission is fully satisfied that the current electoral process in the said 11-Dr.Radhakrishnan Nagar Assembly Constituency in Tamil Nadu has been seriously vitiated on account of unlawful activities of the candidates and political parties and their workers by bribing the electors and unlawfully inducing them by offering money and other gifts of consumable items to woo them in their favour.
 
"In the Commission’s considered opinion, allowing the current electoral process to proceed and conduct the poll in the constituency on 12th April, 2016, as scheduled, in such vitiated atmosphere would severely jeopardize  the conduct of free and fair election in the said 11-Dr.Radhakrishnan Nagar Assembly Constituency," it said.
 
The Commission also expressed its anguish over the "sordid state of affairs" as revealed in the reports of the Election Expenditure Observers, Election Expenditure Monitoring Teams, Static Surveillance Teams, Flying Squad Teams, Video Surveillance Teams, as well as the reports of the Income Tax Authorities. 
 
"The innovative ways which the political parties and their leaders at the top echelons have devised to bypass the law enforcing authorities entrusted with the task of keeping an eye on the unauthorized and illegal expenses incurred in the conduct of election campaigns of their party candidates need to be dealt with heavy hand. Some of the States have particularly excelled in innovating more and more subtle ways to circumvent the statutory provisions enacted by Parliament to curb the menace of money power in elections. The top leaderships of the parties cannot feign ignorance about such illegal activities being indulged in by the candidates set by their parties, and also the managers appointed by their parties to oversee the election campaigns of their candidates. If not their express consent, their tacit approval to the resort to such undesirable activities on the part of their candidates and electoral managers cannot be wished away. It is high time that they exert their moral influence and legal authority to reign in their erring candidates and electoral managers without loss of time, if democracy is to flourish and deepen its roots in our country," it said.
 
 
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Fire at actor Kamal Haasan's house in Chennai, no one hurt

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A fire was reported from well-known Tamil actor Kamal Haasan's residence on East Coast Road here in the early hours of today, but he was safe and no one was hurt in the incident.
 
"Thanks to my staff. Escaped a fire at my house. Lungs full of smoke, I climbed down from the third floor. I am safe No one hurt . Goodnight," the actor said on micro-blogging site Twitter shortly after the incident.
 
"Thanks for all the love and concern. Now off to sleep. Good night indeed:)," he added.
 
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ECI transfers officers ahead of bye-election in TN's R.K. Nagar Assembly constituency

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The Election Commission of India (ECI) has ordered the transfer of all officers in the rank of assistant returning officers and below, all officers of the rank of Additional Commissioner of Police and upto the inspector of police looking after or working in the constituency and assistant engineer to executive engineer in the municipal corporation in the Dr. R. K. Nagar Assembly constituency in Tamil Nadu ahead of the bye-election for the seat.
 
An official press release said the Commission had, on March 30, deputed a delegation of its senior officers to review the preparedness of the state election machinery in the constituency for the bye-election.
 
The team submitted its report today and, in turn, the Commission issued the transfer orders, the release said.
 
The Commission has deputed another five observers to the constituency. It has also decided to deploy micro-observers who will move in the narrow lanes of the constituency on motor bicycles and assist the observers.
 
The Commission has also ordered deployment of cameras in all the streets to monitor movement; mapping of all incoming roads to the constituency; setting up of check posts; and deployment of additional teams of flying squads, which will now be ten in number and work 24x7 and work in three shifts.
 
The flying squads will be GPS-enabled and manned by staff from Central Government departments. 
 
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The release said that, on poll day, all the polling stations will be covered by Central forces, will have web-casting in all booths, inside and outside the booths. Proceedings outside the booth can be seen by the general public.
 
"Services of IAS/IPS  probationers from the state will also be pressed into service.  A number of officers of the level of Tehsildars/Dy. Collectors having knowledge of Tamil language will be requisioned from neighbouring state of A.P and Kerala to strengthen Flying Squads.
 
"The Commission has issued special instructions to the effect that no government vehicle belonging to any department, political leader, Minister  should be allowed to move in the constituency and vehicles should be subjected to check without any hesitation. There will be daily press briefing of District Election Officer and Commissioner of Police to meet the media, brief them of the arrangements made, action taken in regard to complaints etc.  Similarly on a daily basis the observers of the Commission will interact with the leaders of the political parties/candidates," the release added.
 
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Test Bed of Integrated Automatic Aviation Meteorological Systems inaugurated at INS Rajali

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Admiral Sunil Lanba, Chief of the Naval Staff, inaugurated the first ever Integrated Automatic Aviation Meteorological System (IAAMS) at INS Rajali near here yesterday.
 
The IAAMS is an ambitious project of the Indian Navy to modernise the meteorological infrastructure of the nine Naval Air Stations (NAS), an official press release said.
 
INS Rajali at Arakkonam was identified for setting up this sophisticated system on a Test Bed site, where the complete integrated system has been tested for its reliability, performance and functioning.
 
The IAAMS project will give a major fillip to aviation safety, through automation of weather monitoring process, the release said.
 
Equipped with state-of-the-art Meteorological Sensors, Radar Vertical Wind Profiler, Transmissometer, Ceilometer and Automatic Weather Observation System, IAAMS undertakes automatic and continuous recording of relevant weather parameters that are vital for accurate weather forecasting.
 
It has a special alarm feature that alerts the duty staff during abnormal change of weather parameters that may affect safe flying operations. The system can also provide automatic dissemination of routine weather reports as per World Meteorological Organisation standards to other air stations and Air Traffic Controller towers without human intervention.
 
Installation at remaining eight NAS would be undertaken by the system integrator SGS Weather and Environmental Systems Private Limited, New Delhi and is expected to be completed by March 2019, the release added.
 
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LIBA, TCS launch PGDM programme on business analytics

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Loyola Institute of Business Administration (LIBA), Chennai, and IT services major Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) yesterday announced a partnership to design a first-of-its-kind management programme with a specialisation focused on business analytics. 
 
LIBA will offer this course from the next academic year (2017-18), a press release from TCS said.
 
"The partnership will mark yet another milestone in the industry-academia collaboration to fulfil the growing demand for business analytics in India," it said.
 
The memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed in the presence of Fr Christie SJ, director, LIBA, and Ranjan Bandyopadhyay, vice president, HR, TCS, along with and other senior management representatives and academicians from TCS and LIBA.
 
Considering the increasing demand for business analytics, TCS and LIBA have collaborated to design a management course that specialises in this segment to bridge the existing skill gap in the industry. This will be offered under full-time and part-time MBA (PGDM) in business administration.
 
Fr Christie said, “It is a momentous event for LIBA to sign an MoU with TCS, the largest IT company in India, as an industry partner to offer programmes in the area of business analytics. With its expertise, TCS will be able to add value to the students of LIBA. LIBA is the first B-school in India which is forging ahead in signing an agreement with TCS to offer business analytics as a specialisation for the full-time PGDM students”.
 
“We are extremely happy to note that LIBA with its focus on excellence and ethics has found a renowned industry partner, which espouses the same values," he said.
 
Mr Bandyopadhyay said, “Analytics is emerging as a key growth area spanning industries. The need of the hour is talent that can work on delivering carefully crafted analytics solutions insights and recommendations to businesses. TCS designed courses bring in contemporary application oriented inputs to the class room thorough its academic collaboration. We are delighted to partner with LIBA in the field of analytics.
 
One of the key highlights of the course is the ‘Train the Trainer (TTT) Programme’, in which TCS specialists will train the faculty with industry knowledge.
 
TCS-designed courses will also comprise one-year executive diploma in business analytics, to train experienced professionals through part time / weekend programmes offered at the institute, the release added.
 
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ECI freezes "Two Leaves" symbol of AIADMK

In a major setback to the ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) in Tamil Nadu, the Election Commission of India (ECI), in an interim order late Wednesday night, froze its "Two Leaves" election symbol after hearing claims to it from the two rival factions within the party.

V. K. Sasikala
V. K. Sasikala
O. Panneerselvam
O. Panneerselvam
In a major setback to the ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) in Tamil Nadu, the Election Commission of India (ECI), in an interim order late last night, froze its "Two Leaves" election symbol after hearing claims to it from the two rival factions within the party.
 
The factions, one led by Ms. V. K. Sasikala, the general secretary of the party who is currently undergoing a jail term in a corruption case, and the other by former Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam, had laid claim to the popular symbol.
 
The interim order came at the end of more than six hours of hearing on the issue by the Commission here yesterday.
 
The Commission made it clear that the interim order was being issued purely for the purposes of the bye-election from the Dr. Radhakrishnan Nagar assembly constituency in the state, pending the final determination of the dispute raised by the petitions in their petition dated March 16, 2017. Nominations for the bye-election are due to close at 3 pm today.
 
The Commission felt that this was not a matter on which a hasty decision could be taken, pointing out that it would have been impossible for it to study all the records, running into more than 20,000 pages, and to analyze the oral submissions made by counsels for more than six hours yesterday. It said any hasty decision may lead to an erroneous conclusion or finding, prejudicially affecting the rights and interests of either or both the groups.
 
The order said that neither of the two groups led by the petitioners (Mr. E. Madhusudhanan, Mr. Panneerselvam and Mr. S. Semmalai) and the respondents (Ms. Sasikala and party deputy general secretary T T V Dinakaran) shall be permitted to use the name of the party "All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam" simplicitor.
 
Neither of the two groups shall also be permitted to use the symbol "Two leaves" reserved for the AIADMK, it said.
 
"Both the groups shall be known such names as they may choose for their respective groups, showing, if they so desire, linkage with their parent party 'All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam'," the order said.
 
"Both the groups shall also be allotted such different symbols as they may choose from the list of free symbols notified by the Election Commission for the purposes of the current bye-election from 11-Dr. Radhakrishnan Nagar assembly constituency in Tamil Nadu," it said.
 
Accordingly, both the groups were directed to furnish by 10 am this morning the names of their groups by which they may be recognized by the Commission and the symbols which may be alloted to the candidates set up, if any, by the respective groups.
 
"They may indicate the names of three free symbols, in the order of their preference, any one of which may be allotted to their candidates by the Commission," the order said.
 
The Commission also allowed both the groups a further and the final opportunity of adducing all such documents and affidavits on which they propose to rely on their respective claims, latest by April 17.
 
The dispute between the two factions arose after the death of AIADMK supremo and then Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa on December 5, 2016 after 75 days of hospitalisation. 
 
She was succeeded by Mr. Panneerselvam, 65, who was sworn in as the Chief Minister in the early hours of December 6. He resigned from the position on February 5 after Ms. Sasikala was elected as the new leader of the AIADMK legislature party. 
 
On February 7, Mr. Panneerselvam raised the banner of revolt by saying that he was forced to resign and support Ms. Sasikala and that he was willing to continue as Chief Minister if the party and the people so desired.
 
Ms. Sasikala, meanwhile, staked claim to form the new government, but Governor C. Vidyasagar Rao did not respond immediately to it. The pending judgement of the Supreme Court in the corruption case was seen as one of the factors he took into account while deciding to wait.
 
As the two factions jostled for power, Ms. Sasikala expelled Mr. Panneerselvam, known popularly as OPS, and his supporters from the primary membership of the party for alleged anti-party activities. The OPS camp said she had no right to expel anybody, especially because her own election was "interim" general secretary was not valid.
 
In the days that followed, Tamil Nadu witnessed a political crisis as both factions kept urging the Governor for a chance to prove their majority in the Legislative Assembly and making allegations against each other.
 
In its verdict on February 14, the Supreme Court upheld the appeal by the Karnataka government against the May 11, 2015 acquittal of Ms. Jayalalithaa, Ms. Sasikala and the two others and restored the September 2014 verdict of a trial court in Bengaluru convicting the four accused in the case. The special leave petition against Ms. Jayalalithaa's acquittal, however, abated because of her death.
 
The court ordered Ms. Sasikala, 60, and the other two accused to surrender forthwith before the trial court in Bangalore, which she did the next day to serve out the remainder of her four-year sentence.
 
The Sasikala faction elected Mr. Edappadi Palaniswamy as the leader of the legislature party and he was sworn in as the new Chief Minister on February 16.
 
Before setting out for Bangalore on February 15, Ms. Sasikala appointed her nephew and former Member of Parliament T T V Dhinakaran as the deputy general secretary of the AIADMK -- a newly created post -- shortly after readmitting him and another nephew to the party, six years after they were expelled by Ms. Jayalalithaa.
 
In their petition to the Election Commission, the petitioners had, apart from staking claim to the party's election symbol, also argued that Ms. Sasikala's election as the general secretary of the AIADMK was invalid.
 
The Sasikala faction contended that there was no split in the party and that it was only a matter of internal dissent. However, the Commission said it was satisfiedm based on the documents filed and the oral submissions made by the counsels, that there are two rival groups in the party led by Mr. Madhusudhanan and Ms. Sasikala and that each group claims to be the party. "Therefore, the matter needs deterimination in terms of para 15 of the Symbols Order," it said.
 
The Commission, however, made it clear at the outset of the hearing itself that it would go into the question of the appointment of Ms. Sasikala as the general secretary of the party and that the hearing would be confined only to the question of allotment of the reserved symbol of the party to its candidate in the bye-election from Dr. Radhakrishnan Nagar constituency.
 
Mr. Dinakaran is the Sasikala faction's candidate for the bye-election, which will fill the vacancy caused by Ms. Jayalalithaa's death. The OPS faction has nominated Mr. Madhusudhanan for the seat, while Ms. Jayalalithaa's niece Deepa Jayakumar is also in the fray.
 
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Car racer Ashwin Sundar, wife die as their BMW hits tree in Chennai, goes up in flames

Well-known professional car racer Ashwin Sundar and his wife Nivedhita, a doctor working for a local hospital, were charred to death when their BMW car rammed into a tree on the roadside and went up in flames on the San Thome High Road in Chennai late on Friday night.

Ashwin Sundar
Ashwin Sundar
Well-known professional car racer Ashwin Sundar and his wife Nivedhita, a doctor working for a local hospital, were charred to death when their BMW car rammed into a tree on the roadside and went up in flames on the San Thome High Road here late last night.
 
According to police and other sources, Sundar, 31, who was driving, and his wife were trapped in the car, which had got stuck between the tree and a wall, and they could not open the doors. 
 
Both of them died before firefighters or other help could reach the spot, the sources said.
 
The tragedy was caught on mobile phone cameras by some passers-by, but they could not approach the car, which was in flames. They alerted the police, and a team soon rushed to the spot. Fire brigade personnel from Mylapore also reached the scene in a while and put the fire out.
 
The police broke open the door of the car and extricated the bodies, which were sent to the Government Royapettah Hospital for post-mortem examination.
 
Later, the couple was identified with the help of the car's registration number and other details. They had reportedly visited a friend in Raja Annamalaipuram and were returning home to their residence in Aolappakkam, near Porur, when the mishap occurred. 
 
 
Racer Ashwin Sundar, wife charred to death after BMW catches fire
The racing world mourned the death of the young driver.
 
"#FMSCI deeply regrets death of national racing champ #AshwinSundar and wife Nivedhita in car crash last night. Our condolences to the family," the Federation of Motor Sports Clubs of India (FMSCI) said on Twitter.
 
"Motor sports has lost a truly fine driver and an amazing person in #AshwinSundar. May his soul rest in peace. #RIPAshwin," FMSCI added.
 
Sundar had won the Formula 4 national title twice and the MRF Formula 1600 International Challenge competition two times.
 
Former Formula 1 driver Karun Chandhok said on Twitter: "Very sad to hear this morning that the young Indian National racing champion Ashwin Sundar and his wife were killed in a road accident. #RIP."
 
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6th edition of Indian Engineering Sourcing Show opens in Chennai

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India is showcasing its technological and engineering prowess to top international firms at the 6th edition of the International Engineering Sourcing Show (IESS) that opened here today at a time of global headwinds and the rise of protectionism in some of the leading countries.
 
IESS VI was jointly inaugurated at a ceremony by Minister of Commerce & Industry Nirmala Sitharaman and Russian Minister of Trade & Industry Denis Manturov.
 
Mr. Girish Shankar, Secretary, Department of Heavy Industry, Government of India; Mr. Mangat Ram Sharma, Principal Secretary, Government of Tamil Nadu, Mr. T S Bhasin, Chairman, EEPC India and other senior officials from the Ministry of Commerce and Engineering Export Promotion Council (EEPC) were amongst those present on the occasion.
 
Prior to the inauguration, Ms. Sitharaman and Mr. Manturov held discussions on a host of bilateral issues.
 
An official press release said the two leaders agreed there was enormous potential to enhance bilateral trade, which is currently at $ 6.62 billion.
 
They discussed the early operationalization of the International North South Transport Corridor (INSTC) that would cut the time and cost for transportation of goods between the two countries. They also deliberated upon other measures to enhance trade ties, including the proposed free trade agreement (FTA) between India and the Eurasian Economic Union, which includes Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Armenia and Kyrgyzstan. The need to finalise a revised Bilateral Investment Treaty was also noted. 
 
Ms. Sitharaman also invited Russia to be the ‘Partner Country’ in India International Jewellery Show 2017 scheduled to be held in July 2017 in Mumbai and Advantage Healthcare India scheduled to be held in October 2017 in Delhi / Mumbai.
 
According to EEPC India, Russia coming forward as the Partner Country in the event is a testimony to the stature achieved by IESS. India has a long standing partnership with Russia in engineering sector. A large 120-member delegation from Russia is exhibiting their technology and products at the event.
 
As many as 400 top global exhibitors and over 500 foreign delegates are participating in this flagship engineering eventwhich is built around the theme – “Smart Tech for Smart Engineering”.
 
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Apart from the Union Ministry of Commerce and Industry, the show is also supported by the Union Ministry of Micro Small and Medium Enterprises, Department of Heavy Industry and the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research. The event has Flanders as the Focus Region and SIDBI as MSME Solutions Partner. This time, IESS is being held in Chennai, the nerve-centre of south India with Tamil Nadu as the host state of the event.
 
Besides Russia, delegates from USA, UK, Germany, UAE, Brazil, South Africa, Algeria, Benin, Botswana, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya,Namibia, Uganda, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Ukraine, Uzbekistan and Nepal are also visiting IESS.
 
This year's edition of IESS has exclusive Technology and Innovation Pavilions with representations from BARC, IIT Mumbai, IIT Madras, FCRI (Fluid Control Research Institute), ARCI (International Advanced Research Centre for Powder Metallurgy and New Materials), CMTI (Central Manufacturing Technology Institute) and MSME Tools Room.
 
India's engineering exports are likely to cross $ 60 billion in the fiscal 2016-17, on the back of revival of demand in the USA and for select products like iron. For the April-January period of ten months of the current fiscal, the engineering exports have touched a figure of $ 50.87 billion, exceeding the total shipments of $ 49 billion in 2015-16. For January, 2017, engineering exports aggregated $ 5.29 billion, showing an increase of over 12% over the same month last fiscal.
 
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India takes up killing of TN fisherman with Sri Lanka

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India today voiced deep concern at the killing of an Indian fisherman from Tamil Nadu, allegedly in unprovoked firing by Sri Lankan Navy personnel in the Palk Bay, and took up the matter with the Sri Lankan government.
 
"Our High Commissioner to Sri Lanka has taken up the matter with the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka. The Sri Lankan Navy has promised a full and thorough investigation," a press release from the Ministry of External Affairs said here.
 
Meanwhile, in Chennai, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi today urging the Centre to summon forthwith the Sri Lankan High Commissioner to India and convey to him in no uncertain terms the strong feelings of the Government of India and the State Government about the "unprovoked firing on fishermen and non-adherence to earlier agreements on this issue".
 
"I also urge the Government of India to ensure that the safety and security of its citizens from Tamil Nadu, who pursue their humble avocation of earning a livelihood by fishing in their traditional waters of the Palk Bay, is fully protected," he wrote, requesting the Prime Minister to take firm and decisive action in this regard without any delay.
 
Mr. Palaniswamy the fisherman Britjo, 21, had sustained a bullet injury on his neck and died while being brought to the shore after the incident late last night. Another fisherman, Saron, 31, also suffered injuries and is admitted in a Government Hospital in Ramanathapuram district for treatment.
 
The Chief Minister said five fishermen had set out for fishing in a mechanised fishing boat from Rameswaram fishing base in Ramanathapuram district yesterday.
 
He said that, around 9.30 pm, four Sri Lankan Navy vessels surrounded the boat and opened "unprovoked and indiscriminate fire" on the unarmed fishermen.
 
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Mr. Palaniswamy said the "horrendous incident" marked a new low in the "inhuman and cruel manner" in which the Sri Lankan Navy is dealing with a sensitive livelihood issue where history, tradition and customary law are all on the side of the poor fishermen from Tamil Nadu.
 
"The Sri Lankan Navy is resorting to tactics involving greater cruelty and unnecessary use of force in an attempt to scare away our fishermen from exercising their traditional rights," he said. He said such tactics completely belied all the diplomatic efforts that had been undertaken, including the understanding reached between the Government of Sri Lanka and the Government of India, including the recently concluded Joint Working Group meeting in New Delhi and Ministerial Level Meeting in Colombo in which it was clearly agreed not to use force against bona fide fishermen at sea.
 
"Even as action is taken on longer term issues like retrieval of Katchatheevu and on diversification to deep sea fishing, under no circumstances can the present escalation of actions by the Sri Lankan side be ignored or tolerated. I strongly urge the Prime Minister to intervene personally in this sensitive livelihood issue of our fishermen and use all means at the command of the Government of India to curb the unacceptable aggressive actions of the Sri Lankan Navy in the Palk Bay, and to protect the life, limb and liberty of our innocent fishermen," Mr. Palaniswamy added.
 
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MoS Finance promises to sort out problems in education loans by banks

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Minister of State for Finance Arjun Ram Meghwal assured students and banks dispensing education loans that the problems faced by both would be sorted out soonest by convening a meeting of officials of the Ministry of Finance, Education Departments and banks and NGOs concerned with the issue.
 
“I will convene a meeting of secretaries of finance and officials of the education ministry and also top bank officials and representatives of NGOs espousing the cause of students to hear and help resolve the problems faced," he said at a seminar organised by the ELTF, a wing of the PreSense portal, and part of the NGO Prime Point Foundation.
 
Mr. Meghwal said that, as a start, he would ask banks in urban areas to set up a grievances cell at their corporate office and a nodal officer in the regional centres of the banks in tier two and tier three cities to deal exclusively with the issue of education loans. 
 
The demand for the grievances cell was made by ELTF convener and PreSense Editor K Srinivasan, who claimed that the system of dispensing and recovery of education loans needed to be streamlined so that students did not face any problems in the repayment mode. He also demanded 100% reimbursement of interest subsidy.
 
Mr. Subramanya Kumar, Executive Director, of Indian Overseas Bank (IOB), which has disbursed the highest amount of education loans at over Rs 3,600 crore, said there was no question of a loan waiver but the repayment system could be looked at again to make it easier for the students.
 
Some politicians promised students at the time of elections that education loans would be waived which was not possible in reality, he said.
 
While the rate of interest for education loans should be reduced, Mr. Srinivasan said, a new institution on the lines of NABARD or SIDBI should be set to provide refinance for all education loans. Also, a high level committee should be set up with all stake holders to examine the present education loan interest subsidy management.
 
A demand was also made to separate education loan from other loans and that the task of recovery should not be outsourced to collection agencies but done by bank officers themselves. It was pointed out that students were often threatened, muzzled and harassed by collection agencies to return the loans with unreasonable deadlines which generated tremendous pressure on the students .
 
Mr. Meghwal promised to look into this matter and discuss it with banks to separate education loans from the regular non-performing assets (NPA) category. Parents attending the meeting and some NGO representatives pointed out that students were future assets of the country and education loan was an investment made on them. As such, it was not right to treat their loans as an NPA.
 
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Most of the times, students, after they passed out, found it difficult to find jobs and hence there was a delay in repayment of loans which the banks needed to understand, it was pointed out.
 
As per information given in the Lok Sabha recently , public sector banks disbursed education loans to the tune of Rs. 9674 crore in 2015-16 against Rs. 8312 crore in 2014-15. Private sector banks disbursed Rs. 9049 crore in 2015-16 against Rs. 7619 crore in 2014-15.
 
In Tamil Nadu alone, education loans disbursed by all banks amounted to Rs. 1583 crore in 2015-16 against Rs. 1952 crore. The top four banks which sanctioned maximum education loans in Tamil Nadu are:
Indian Overseas bank – 2.07 lakh accounts – amount outstanding Rs 3679 crore.
Canara Bank – 1.51 lakh accounts – amount outstanding Rs 3017 crore
Indian bank – 1.44 lakh accounts – amount outstanding Rs 2906 crore
State Bank of India – 1.01 lakh accounts – amount outstanding Rs 2351 crore.
Total 6.03 lakh accounts – amount outstanding Rs. 11, 953 crore.
 
According to RBI statistics released in December last year, Gross Bank Credit until December 2016 was Rs. 66,458 billion , out of which education loan amounted to Rs 608 billion which was 0.91% of the whole. In the same period last year, gross bank credit was Rs 64,335 billion, out of which education amounted to Rs. 609 billion, which was 0.94 % of the total.
 
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DMK leader Stalin arrested while staging protest after EPS wins trust vote

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Opposition DMK Working President M. K. Stalin was arrested by the Chennai Police when he and leaders and workers of his party staged a protest at Marina Beach to condemn the alleged violence against them in the Legislative Assembly, where Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami won a vote of confidence amidst high drama and pandemonium.
 
Mr. Stalin, who was evicted from the House along with other MLAs of his party on the orders of the Speaker, staged sit-ins near Raj Bhavan and later at Marina Beach.
 
He came out of the Assembly with his shirt open and headed towards Raj Bhavan to brief Governor C. Vidyasagar Rao about the incidents in the Assembly.
 
He said he was "manhandled" by the marshals in the Assembly and that several of his colleagues were assaulted.
 
First, he and his party's MLAs and MPs, including Rajya Sabha members K. Kanimozhi and T. K. S. Elangovan, and scores of party cadres staged a demonstration in front of Raj Bhavan.
 
As news of the demonstration spread, DMK cadres in some parts of the state staged protests and shopkeepers downed shutters in some areas.
 
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Later, the DMK leaders met Mr. Rao and complained to him about the incidents in the Assembly and the ill-treatment meted out to them. They urged him to order a fresh trust vote with secret ballot.
 
After that, Mr. Stalin drove to the Mahatma Gandhi statue on Marina Beach, where processions, meetings and demonstrations were banned in the wake of the recent pro-Jallikattu agitation. He and his supporters attempted to stage a hunger strike there and urged those who wanted to "remove" the "anti-democratic" government to gather there.
 
As the crowds began to swell, the police denied permission for the gathering, which included MLAs and MPs. There was tension for some time and traffic on the arterial road was affected.
 
After heated arguments, during which some DMK workers tried to erect a DMK flag mast, the police arrested Mr. Stalin and senior party leaders and took them to a community hall.
 
Talking to reporters, Mr. Stalin said that his party would spearhead an agitation to protest against the incidents that took place in the Assembly.
 
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Palaniswami wins trust vote in TN Assembly after unruly scenes, eviction of DMK MLAs

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami won a vote of confidence in the Assembly on Saturday 122-11 with none of the Opposition members present after the Speaker evicted 89 MLAs -- 88 of the DMK and one of the IUML -- following unprecedented unruly scenes and those of the Congress followed them out.

 
Uproar in TN Assembly during EPS trust vote
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami won a vote of confidence in the Legislative Assembly today by a margin of 122-11 with none of the Opposition members present after the Speaker evicted 89 MLAs -- 88 of the DMK and one of the IUML -- following unprecedented unruly scenes and those of the Congress followed them out.
 
On a day of high drama and pandemonium in the House, rebel AIADMK leader O. Panneerselvam, who stepped as Chief Minister after the party MLAs chose its General Secretary V. K. Sasikala as their new leader and then turned against her, managed to muster only 11 votes against the motion of confidence from MLAs loyal to him.
 
Mr. Palaniswamy, who was Minister for Public Works in the Panneerselvam government, was elected as the new leader of the AIADMK government on February 14, hours after the Supreme Court convicted Ms. Sasikala, a close aide of late Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa, in a corruption case basically involving her mentor, and asked her to report to the trial court in Bengaluru to resume her four-year jail term. Ms. Sasikala drove to Bengaluru the next day and and was sent back to jail.
 
Governor C. Vidyasagar Rao, who had not responded to Ms. Sasikala's claim to forming the new government, appointed Mr. Palaniswamy as the new Chief Minister on February 16 and asked him to prove his majority in the House within two weeks. The new Chief Minister decided to seek a floor test today.
 
Soon after the special sitting of the Assembly commenced at 11 am today, Speaker P. Dhanapal called upon the Chief Minister to move the motion of confidence but former Minister S. Semmalai, the whip of the "rebel" AIADMK camp led by Mr. Panneerselvam, popularly called OPS, got up to speak, demanding a secret ballot so that members could vote freely according to their conscience and sought adequate security for the MLAs.
 
DMK Working President M. K. Stalin, the Leader of the Opposition, backed the OPS faction and urged the Speaker to allow Mr. Semmalai to speak.
 
DMK President M. Karunanidhi, who is ailing, could not attend the session, while an AIADMK MLA, said to be in the Sasikala camp, sneaked out of the Koovathur resort, where 120-odd MLAs had been staying for the past ten days, and went home to Coimbatore. He said he would not attend the session, alleging that the AIADMK government was being controlled by one family. 
 
With 231 members present in the House, Mr. Palaniswamy, referred to informally as EPS, needed the support of 116 MLAs to clear the floor test.
 
Mr. Stalin also objected to the manner in which the MLAs said to be supporting EPS had been kept at the resort all these days and were escorted from straight to the Assembly "like prisoners" without getting an opportunity to visit their constituencies or homes.
 
Mr. Semmalai's demand for secret ballot was supported by the entire Opposition, including the DMK and the IUML. 
 
Noisy scenes erupted soon, even as Mr. Dhanapal assured members of adequate protection and appealed to them to maintain decorum in the House. The treasury benches were against a secret ballot, fearing that it could lead to cross voting from their side.
 
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''Why is the floor test is being conducted in such a hurry when the Governor has given 15 days," Mr. Stalin asked. "Democratic principles will be fulfilled only if a secret ballot is conducted," he said.
 
He said the trust vote should be deferred to another day to enable the AIADMK MLAs to travel to their constituencies and gauge the public mood.
 
The Speaker turned down his plea, saying that it was his prerogative to decide how the voting should be conducted.
 
Mr. Panneerselvam said the AIADMK MLAs were held against their will at Kuvathoor and demanded secret ballot.
 
"The people's voice should be heard and only then should the floor test be conducted," he said. "It should be conducted only after registering the voice of the people inthe House."
 
Congress floor leader K. R. Ramasamy also backed the demand for secret ballot.
 
With the Speaker turning down the demand, the entire Opposition were on their feet and began shouting slogans. Members of the DMK created a ruckus.
 
The House was adjourned till 1300 hours after the Speaker was "gheraoed" by DMK members and his microphone and some furniture was damaged, papers were torn and strewn around and there was some pushing and jostling, even as EPS supporters sat and watched silently. In the commotion, marshals escorted the Speaker into his chamber.
 
Assembly Secretary AMP Jamaludeen's chair was also damaged in the melee, while one MLA was seen sitting in the Speaker's chair for some time.
 
Mr. Stalin met the Speaker in his chamber during the adjournment and expressed regret for the incidents.
 
When the House reassumbled at 1300 hours, Mr. Dhanapalan expressed his anguish and pain over the violence indulged in by the members. He said he had a responsibility to conduct the proceedings as per the rules.
 
When the Speaker said his shirt torn by DMK members, Mr. Stalin denied the allegation.
 
Mr Dhanapal made repeated pleas to DMK MLAs to resume their seats and finally ordered their eviction.
 
''Since the DMK members violated the Assembly traditions and continued to disrupt the proceedings, I ordered their eviction," he said, and asked the Chief Minister to move the motion of confidence.
 
DMK members remained in the well of the House and continued to shout slogans, resisting the marhals who tried to evict them. The Speaker adjourned the House to 1500 hours. But the DMK members remained in the House and heckled the marshals.
 
When the House reassembled at 1500 hours without the Opposition, the Speaker put the motion to vote, Mr. Palaniswami sailed through with 122 of his supporters voting for him and 11 belonging to the OPS camp voting against.
 
After the division, the Speaker announced that Mr. Palaniswami had won the trust vote 122-11. "The motion of confidence moved by Mr. Palaniswami is adopted," he said, and adjourned the House sine die.
 
Shortly thereafter, Mr. Palaniswami and his Cabinet colleagues visited the memorial of Ms. Jayalalithaa and offered their tributes.
 
This was the first time in nearly three decades that the Tamil Nadu Assembly had witnessed a vote of confidence.
 
Mr. Panneerselvam had been sworn in as the Chief Minister of the state in the early hours of December 6, 2016 shortly after Ms. Jayalalithaa had passed away here late on the previous night.
 
The current crisis in the party began on February 5, when Ms. Sasikala was chosen by AIADMK MLAs as the new leader of its legislature party and, therefore, Mr. Panneerselvam's successor. OPS resigned the same day, and Governor Rao accepted his resignation on February 6, but asked him to continue in office until alternative arrangements were made.
 
Ms. Sasikala staked claim to forming the next government in the state, but Mr. Rao did not respond to it for various reasons, including the fact that the Supreme Court was due to deliver its verdict on the corruption case against her in a few days.
 
OPS raised the banner of revolt against Ms. Sasikala on February 7 and alleged that he was forced to resign and stated that he was willing to continue as Chief Minister if the party and the people so desired.
 
The next week saw both sides engaged in a bitter power tussle, trying to garner support from the party's MLAs. The OPS camp attracted the support of 11 MPs and several AIADMK veterans, including a State Minister, but could manage to get backing from only 10 MLAs till then. Ms. Sasikala said she enjoyed the support of more than 120 MLAs, all of whom stayed at a resort near the city for the next several days.
 
As it turned out, the apex court convicted Ms. Sasikala in the 20-year-old case, which basically involved Mr. Jayalalithaa, and restored the order of a trial court in Bengaluru sentencing her to four years in prison. That ended her Chief Ministerial ambitions and she had to travel to Bengaluru to surrender before the trial court there to serve out the remainder of her prison term.
 
Hours before leaving for Bengaluru, she inducted her nephews into the party and made Dinakaran her deputy, in a clear bid to ensure that her family retained control over the organisation.
 
She also expelled OPS and 19 others, including senior leaders like Mr. C. Ponnaian and K. Pandiarajan, a Minister in the Panneerselvam Cabinet and a sitting MLA, for supporting him.
 
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