Sasikala loyalist Palaniswami becomes new Tamil Nadu CM
By Venkatachari Jagannathan
K. Palaniswami, a loyalist of the jailed AIADMK leader V.K. Sasikala, on Thursday took oath as Tamil Nadu’s Chief Minister, ending for now an ugly war within the ruling party.
Governor C. Vidyasagar Rao administered the oath of office and secrecy to Palaniswami, 63, and his team at the Raj Bhavan, only hours after inviting him to form a government.
Palaniswami took oath in Tamil, followed by 30 ministers in batches. He has to prove his majority in the assembly within 15 days.
The assembly has, however, been convened on Saturday and the Sasikala faction said it was confident of proving its majority of at least 117 legislators in the house of 234.
“We have the support of 125 legislators and we will prove our majority,” V.N.Virugai Ravi, a legislator, told IANS.
Palaniswami has retained the crucial Finance Ministry he had in the outgoing government of O. Panneerselvam, whose attempt to foil Sasikala’s bid to be the Chief Minister led to bitter fighting in the AIADMK.
A farmer by profession, Palaniswami also retained the portfolios of Public Works, Highways and Minor Ports he held in the earlier government.
A Raj Bhavan statement said senior party leaders C. Sreenivasan and K.A. Sengottaiyan — the only new face in the cabinet — were designated as Minister for Forests and Minister for School Education and Sports and Youth Welfare.
P. Thangamani will be in charge of Electricity, Prohibition and Excise.
The other ministers are: K. Raju, S.P. Velumani, D. Jayakumar, C.Ve. Shanmugam, K.P. Anbalagan, V. Saroja, M.C. Sampath, K.C. Karuppanan, R. Kamaraj, O.S. Manian, K. Radhakrishnan, C. Vijaya Baskar, R. Doraikkannu, Kadambur Raju, R.B. Udhayakumar, N. Natarajan, K.C. Veeramani, K.T. Rajenthra Bhalaji, P. Benjamin, Nilofer Kafeel, M.R. Vijayabaskar, M. Manikandan, V.M. Rajjalakshmi, G. Baskaran, S. Ramachandran, S. Valarmathi and P. Balakrishna Reddy.
Dropped from the previous cabinet are Panneerselvam and former School Education Minister K. Pandiarajan.
Panneerselvam, who took charge of the government after the December 5 death of Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa, vowed to pursue his fight against “one family” controlling the AIADMK — a reference to Sasikala.
He said people were angry that a new government was formed with the support of legislators who, he said, were held for days in captivity at a resort near here.
His aides said they would meet Election Commission officials in Delhi to complain that Sasikala had no right to be the AIADMK General Secretary.
Sasikala was elected to the top post and then chosen as the AIADMK legislature party leader by MLAs to enable her to replace Panneerselvam as the Chief Minister.
That’s when Panneerselvam revolted, leading to the worst faction fighting in the AIADMK.
DMK leader M.K. Stalin said the 15 days time given to Palaniswami to prove his majority would result in horse trading.
Shortly after the oath taking, a group of supporters of the new Chief Minister stoned Panneerselvam’s house to protest against the presence of a number of backers of the former Chief Minister.
Thursday’s celebrations by Palaniswami supporters came after a day of gloom when Sasikala returned to the Central Jail in Bengaluru after being held guilty of corruption by the Supreme Court.
Also jailed with her were her relatives Elavarsi and V.N. Sudhakaran. Sasikala, who had wished to become the Chief Minister, is now barred from contesting elections for 10 years.
Barring Panneerselvam and Pandiarajan, all other MLAs in “the rival camp are welcome to join us”, AIADMK leader O.S. Manian told the media.
Hailing from Nedungulam village in Salem district, Palaniswami belongs to the Gounder community.
He joined the AIADMK in the 1980s and entered the Tamil Nadu assembly for the first time in 1989 from Edapadi constituency.
After the Supreme Court upheld the earlier conviction of Sasikala, she chose Palaniswami as her successor as the leader of the party legislature wing.