Chennai: The way things are changing in Tamil Nadu politics seems a scene straight out of a Bollywood potboiler. The drama that started following the death of former Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalalithaa, continues till now.
Immediately after the death of one of the biggest political leaders in Tamil Nadu politics, more than two months ago, Sasikala Natraja, her friend and confidante took over as party general secretary. It was rather amazing to see the backroom strategist of Jayalalithaa hog the limelight. Earlier, immediately after Jayalalithaa’s death, O Panneerselvam was anointed the chief minister of the state by none other than Sasikala.
But the drama had just begun. Earlier this month, when Sasikala Natarajan decided that it was the time to take over the government, she got herself elected as the legislature party head of the AIADMK, paving the way to become chief minister. Everything seemed to be falling in place, till O Panneerselvam, in a very filmy style, sat on meditation, at Jayalalithaa’s grave. He later announced his revolt against Sasikala and started Sasikala vs Panneerselvam protracted fight that continues till day.
The apex court verdict against Sasikala came as a bolt from blue and shattered her dream. But the politically mature Sasi damaged Panneerselvam dreams too by appointed one of her loyalist, Edappadi K. Palaniswami, as the party legislature party chief.
The new chief minister in waiting, Edappadi K. Palaniswami, is currently the Minister for Public Works, State Highways and Minor Ports. He has been an old Jayalalithaa soldier and was staunch loyalist of Jayalalithaa since the time she entered active politics in the 1980s. He was part of her four-member kitchen cabinet from 2011-16 along with Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam and former ministers Natham R. Viswanathan and R. Vaithilingam. Presently, he is ranked number three in the Cabinet.
The former farmer, who happily cultivated his lands till a few decade ago, to his status as a CM in waiting has been a rather long journey. Hailing from the rural Nedungulam village in Edappadi taluk, 62-year-old Mr. Palaniswami joined AIADMK in the 1980s. He threw his weight behind Jayalalithaa when the party suffered a split after the demise of founder M.G. Ramachandran in 1987. He hails from Kongu Vellala Gounder community — a dominant community of the western region of the State. He was never dropped by Jayalalithaa and whenever she became chief minister he was into the cabinet.
A report in the New Indian Express says, “The Gounders from west Tamil Nadu are an influential group that has reasonable numbers and boasts of being successful in business, trade and entrepreneurship. While the Thevar community, to which Sasikala belongs to, held the centre stage during Jaya’s period, that equilibrium changed after her death.”