CHENNAI: Edappadi K Palaniswami, a V K Sasikala loyalist, was Thursday sworn in as the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, ending the ten-day political uncertainty in the state which began with caretaker chief minister O Panneerselvam’s revolt against the AIADMK general secretary.
Palaniswami is the third person to occupy the top post in the last nine months.
Governor C Vidyasagar Rao administered the oath of office and secrecy to 63-year-old Palaniswami, a party veteran from western Tamil Nadu, at the head of a 31-member cabinet at a ceremony in the Raj Bhavan Thursday evening. The ministers were sworn in in batches. All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam supremo and former chief minister J Jayalalithaa had powered the party to a rare successive term in office in the state in the May 2016 assembly polls. She continued in the post through her grim 74-day battle for life. Within hours of her death on December 5, Panneerselvam, who had filled in for Jayalalithaa twice in the past when she had to go to jail in corruption cases, was sworn in as chief minister.
Panneerselvam later stepped down, paving the way for Sasikala, who was already chosen AIADMK general secretary, to be elected its legislature party leader on February 5. However, the usually reticent Man Friday of Jayalalithaa rose in rebellion against Sasikala two days later, claiming he was coerced into resigning. He even expressed willingness to become chief minister again if the people of Tamil Nadu and AIADMK workers so desired. His belligerence plunged the state into a political crisis.
Amid the face-off with Panneerselvam, Sasikala met Governor Rao on February 9 and staked claim to form the government.
Notwithstanding criticism from several quarters, Rao preferred to wait and watch as the political tug-of-war played out between the rival AIADMK factions. He stood vindicated when Sasikala and two members of her family were convicted and their sentences restored by the Supreme Court in a disproportionate assets case on February 14, rendering her ineligible for contesting elections for ten years and dashing her hopes of becoming the chief minister.
Sasikala then handpicked her loyalist Palaniswami, who was elected AIADMK legislature party leader, and staked claim to form the government on Tuesday.
Palaniswami was invited by the Governor Thursday to form the government after he submitted a list of 124 MLAs supporting him Wednesday night. He has 15 days to prove his majority in the 234-member Tamil Nadu assembly.
Later, Palaniswami visited the memorials of party founder M G Ramachandran and Jayalalithaa where he paid floral tributes. As a mark of reverence, Palaniswami prostrated at Jayalalithaa’s memorial on the marina. He was accompanied among others by AIADMK deputy general secretary T T V Dinakaran, who is a nephew of Sasikala.
Before heading for a Karnataka prison where she would serve the remainder of her jail term, Sasikala had re-inducted Dinakaran into the party, five years after Jayalalithaa had expelled him. Sasikala also appointed Dinakaran as her deputy, virtually handing over the party’s control to him in her absence.