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Panneerselvam Takes Charge of TN Govt, Opposition Raises Questions

Poornima Murali | CNN-News18

First published: October 12, 2016, 7:18 PM IST | Updated: October 12, 2016
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Panneerselvam Takes Charge of TN Govt, Opposition Raises Questions
Tamil Nadu Finance Minister Panneerselvam was handed over all the portfolios looked after by J Jayalalithaa on Tuesday night. (FILE PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES)

Chennai: Change of guard is hardly a smooth process. And O Panneerselvam’s appointment as the almost-chief minister of Tamil Nadu seems to be no different with BJP MP Subramanian Swamy claiming credit and DMK leader M Karunanidhi wondering just how the ailing Amma, who is out of bounds for everyone, could “advise the governor” on the succession.

Finance Minister Panneerselvam was handed over all the portfolios looked after by J Jayalalithaa on Tuesday night on the “advice of the chief minister”, according to a release from the Tamil Nadu Raj Bhavan. Jayalalithaa was admitted to Apollo Hospital in Chennai on September 22 and the hospital has said she requires a longer stay.

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Defending the decision, AIADMK spokesperson CR Saraswathi also underlined Panneerselvam’s qualifications to be the stand-in CM. “Panneerselvam is a very good and hardworking man and in the past he has been CM for some time,” she said.

But of course, BJP’s Swamy and DMK’s Karunanidhi are not buying it all wholesale. Swamy was quick to remind everyone that it was he who wrote to the Union Home Ministry to impose President's Rule in the state till Jayalalithaa recovers. A few hours after Jayalalithaa’s portfolios were allotted to Panneerselvam, Swamy tweeted: “Appointment of Paneer (sic) as chairman of the cabinet was triggered by my demand for President’s rule. It led to Governor summoning Ministers.”

AIADMK circles say Panneerselvam has been the obvious choice of the AIADMK. He began his political career in 1980s, joining the AIADMK at the instance of former chief minister and Jayalalithaa's mentor MG Ramachandran. When MGR died in 1987, Panneerselvam first took sides with the late CM's wife Janaki, but switched over to the Jayalalithaa camp when it became evident she would become successor.

In 2001, the first-time MLA was made the CM when Jaya was sent to jail in the Tansi land scam case. True to his devotion to Amma, he refused to sit in the Chief Minister’s chair and occupied an adjacent seat. Since then, he has been holding important portfolios, including Finance, Public Works, Prohibition and Excise.

He returned to the chair in 2014 when Jayalalithaa was convicted in the disproportionate assets case. This time around, he sobbed uncontrollably while taking oath as the CM.

For the last few weeks, it is Panneerselvam who has been receiving the political big-wigs, ranging from Amit Shah to Rahul Gandhi, who landed up in Apollo to enquire about the CM’s health.

While the main opposition DMK has welcomed the Governor’s decision, the party says this could have been done earlier. DMK supremo Karunanidhi has questioned the Governor’s claim that it was Jayalalithaa who had asked for reallocating her portfolios to Panneerselvam. In a statement, he said: “It is surprising to know that the Chief Minister has advised Tamil Nadu Governor to reallocate the portfolios held by her to O Panneerselvam and has signed in the advisory at a time when there are reports that no one is being allowed to meet her at the hospital.”

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