Hotel President became a beehive of political activity in the first week of January. A good number of the MLAs supporting Veerappan were housed there. Nobody knows if they were staying there on their free will or were compelled to stay put. But one of the men who was looking after this part of the show, Minister V.V. Swaminathan, was going about his work zealously. “Unless we mobilise support of our MLAs and bring them to one place, we will not know who are our true supporters,” Swaminathan told THE WEEK as he took a break from his trips to the party office, the hotel and his home.
Veerappan’s men virtually took over the hotel; all the rooms had been booked. Men were posted all over the place to ensure that only a select few had access to the MLAs. Even news photographers were discouraged from moving in. Numerous cars of visiting supporters whizzed in and out of the place.
As the succession war hotted up, there has been a spate of allegations of kidnapping of MLAs. Acting chief minister V.R. Nedunchezhiyan even went public with the charge that Swaminathan had taken away R. Shanmugham on December 31. But on January 1, Shanmugham denied the charge. He told newsmen at the hotel in the presence of Swaminathan that he had gone to Tiruttani, his constituency, to attend a temple ceremony. The MLA noted that he had gone there in his official capacity as a ‘fit person’ of the temple.
Incidentally, four other MLAs who were alleged to have been kidnapped were also ‘fit persons’ of popular temples. And Swaminathan happens to be in charge of Hindu religious endowments department.
Sources say a few other MLAs of Veerappan are being housed at MGR’s Satya Studios. There are also charges that money was exchanged to win over MLAs who were not exactly Veerappan camp-followers. Apparently, in the pursuit of power, three-star hospitalities were but a minor bait for the loyalists, There are more goodies awaiting the fence-sitters.