Edappadi K. Palaniswami sworn in as 13th Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu
Chennai, February 16, 2017
Senior AIADMK leader Edappadi K. Palaniswami was today sworn in as the 13th Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu at the head of 31-member Cabinet, bringing the curtains down on 11 days of political drama and uncertainty that began on February 5 with the election of the party's general secretary as the leader of its legislature wing.
During these 11 days, the state witnessed political turmoil, which included efforts by two factions of the ruling party, led by Ms. Sasikala and caretaker Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam to win over a majority of the 135 AIADMK MLAs.
The crisis culminated with the conviction of Ms. Sasikala in a 20-year-old corruption case, that basically involved the late Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa, and her surrender before a trial court in Bengaluru yesterday to resume her four-year jail sentence.
Before leaving for Bengaluru, Ms. Sasikala oversaw the election of Mr. Palaniswami as the new leader of the legislature party and then placed her nephew, T. T. K. Dinakaran, in the newly-created position of deputy secretary general of the AIADMK, ensuring that she would retain some control over its affairs from inside prison.
State Governor C. Vidyasagar adminstered the oaths of office and secrecy to Mr. Palaniswami and the other Ministers at a simple and brief ceremony held this afternoon in the Durbar Hall of Raj Bhavan.
The new Chief Minister has been given two weeks to prove his majority in the State Legislative Assembly. AIADMK sources indicated that this would be done on February 18 at a special session of the assembly.
Mr. Palaniswami retained most members of the outgoing Cabinet with the same portfolios that was headed by Mr. O. Panneerselvam, who had raised the banner of revolt against Ms. Sasikala on February 7, precipitating the crisis, and, thus, as was to be expected, did not figure on the list.
Mr. Palaniswami, who was Minister for Public Works, Irrigation, Highways and Minor Ports in the Panneerselvam Cabinet and a staunch Jayalalithaa loyalist, was the first to take oath in the name of God. He was followed by the other Ministers, who also took oath in the name of God.
The only new face in the Cabinet was former Minister and party stalwart K. A. Sengottaiyan, who made a return to the Government and is now number three with the portfolios of School Education and Sports and Youth Welfare. He has replaced Mr. K. Pandiarajan, who had also turned rebel last week and joined the camp headed by Mr. Panneerselvam, known popularly as OPS.
Mr. Palaniswamy will look after all the portfolios held by Mr. Panneerselvam in the outgoing Cabinet, including the key portfolio of Finance.
Shortly after becoming the Chief Minister, Mr. Palaniswami offered floral tributes at the memorials of late AIADMK leader J. Jayalalithaa, late party founder M. G. Ramachandran and late Chief Minister C. N. Annadurai at Marina Beach.
He asserted that he would prove his majority in the House, as advised by the Governor, and that the "golden rule" of Amma, as Ms. Jayalalithaa is called, would continue.
Mr. Palaniswami has become the third Chief Minister of the state in the short span of ten months since the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) retained power for a second consecutive term in the May 2016 elections to the Assembly.
Ms. Jayalalithaa took over as the Chief Minister but, following her death on December 5, 2016 after 75 days of hospitalisation, Mr. Panneerselvam succeeded her and assumed office on December 6.
Those present at the swearing-in ceremony included Assembly Speaker P. Dhanapal, senior AIADMK leaders such as Lok Sabha Deputy Speaker M. Thambi Durai, newly-appointed AIADMK Deputy General Secretary T. T. V. Dinakaran, a nephew of Ms. Sasikala, and several MPs and MLAs and leaders of political parties.
Earlier, Mr. Palaniswamy had met Governor Rao at Raj Bhavan at 1130 hours today when he was invited to form the new government.
"Thiru Ch. Vidyasagar Rao, Hon'ble Governor of Tamil Nadu has today (16.2.2017) appointed Thiru Edappadi K. Palaniswami, Party Headquarters Secretary of the AIADMK, as the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu and invited him to form the Ministry at the earliest," a press release from Raj Bhavan said.
"This is in acceptance of the letter submitted by Thiru Edappadi K. Palaniswami on 14.02.2017 that he was elected as the Leader of the AIADMK Legislature party in ameeitng of the Party MLAs held on that day.
"Hon'ble Governor has also requested the Chief Minister-Designate, Thiru Edappadi K. Palaniswami to seek the vote of the confidence of the Assembly within fifteen days," the release added.
Mr. Panneerselvam had resigned as Chief Minister on February 5, shortly after Ms. Sasikala's election as the new legislature party leader. The Governor accepted his resignation the following day and asked him to continue in office till alternative arrangements were made.
With the Supreme Court verdict the corruption case against Ms. Jayalalithaa, Ms. Sasikala nd two others, expected within a few days, Mr. Rao did not respond immediately to Ms. Sasikala's claim to forming the new government.
On February 7 night, OPS, in rather uncharacteristic fashion, came out openly against Ms. Sasikala, claiming that he had been forced to resign and support her and that he was willing to continue as Chief Minister if the party and the people wanted him to.
In the days that followed, both the Sasikala and OPS camps tried to woo the AIADMK's 135 MLAs. While Ms. Sasikala said she had the support of more than 120 of them, Mr. Panneerselvam could not get more than ten on his side, even as 11 AIADMK Members of Parliament threw their lot in with him.
On February 14, the Supreme Court convicted Ms. Sasikala and directed her to surrender forthwith before the trial court in Bengaluru to resume the four-year prison term she had been awarded by it in September 2014 before the Karnataka High Court overturned that verdict in May 2015. The case against Ms. Jayalalithaa had abated because of her death.
The Supreme Court's order, overturning the Karnataka High Court judgement and restoring the verdict of the trial court, meant that Ms. Sasikala would have to spend time in prison and be barred from contesting elections for six years after that, bringing her political career to an abrupt halt and putting paid to her chief ministerial aspirations.
Her faction of the AIADMK elected Mr. Palaniswami as the new leader of its legislature party within a few hours of the verdict on Tuesday.
Ms. Sasikala drove to Bengaluru yesterday and surrendered to the trial court and was sent to jail shortly thereafter once the legal formalities were completed.
Mr. Palaniswami met Governor Rao twice in the past two days to press his claim to form the new government before being called to Raj Bhavan this morning.
Since yesterday, Mr. Panneerselvam and his supporters appeared resigned to the fact that they simply did not have the numbers as far as MLAs were concerned, even though they had managed to draw a few bigwigs, including School Education Minister K. Pandiarajan, AIADMK Presidium chairman E. Madhusudanan and former Minister C. Ponnaiyan onto their side.
The MLAs in the Sasikala camp were staying at a resort close to Mahabalipuram, near here, for the past ten days, and the OPS faction kept saying that they were kept there against their will and that many of them would cross over to his side if they were able to come out and act freely. But enquiries conducted by official agencies in response to these complaints did not yield any evidence in this regard and the Governor has gone by the numbers claimed by Mr. Palaniswami in his letter.
A farmer by occupation, Mr. Palaniswami, who belongs to the Kongu Vellala Gounder community, a dominant force in the western parts of the state, has clearly been rewarded for his consistent loyalty to the late Ms. Jayalalithaa.
He hails from Nedungulam village in Edappadi taluk in Salem district, and was elected to the State Assembly first in 1989 and re-elected in 1991, 2011 and 2016 from the Edappadi constituency which has earned him the sobriquet "Edappadi".
Mr. Palaniswami was the headquarters secretary of the AIADMK and was the first AIADMK functionary to publicly appeal to Ms. Sasikala to take over as Chief Minister when Mr. Panneerselvam was chosen to take up that position after the death of Ms. Jayalalithaa late in the night of December 5, 2016. Mr. Panneerselvam had been sworn in as Chief Minister in the early hours of December 6.
Mr. Palaniswami, who has a degree in science, had joined the AIADMK as a youth and has remained a staunch supporter of Ms. Jayalalithaa ever since. He was rewarded for this with a party ticket and he won his first election in 1989 and again in 1991.
He was sidelined for a long time but was brought back to the limelight in 2011, when he was elected to the Assembly again and retained his seat in 2016. He was made a Minister for the first time in 2011 and got the portfolios of Highways and Minor Ports. He remained in the Jayalalithaa cabinet through the five-year term that was otherwise marked by repeated reshuffles.
He was ranked fourth in the Jayalalithaa cabinet and was part of the "Naalvar Ani" (four-member group) that included her confidants OPS, Natham R. Viswanathan and R. Vaithilingam. In the OPS cabinet, he was the number three, handling, among other things, the powerful PWD portfolio.