Change of guard

But will the AIADMK leadership give Tamil Nadu’s new Chief Minister a free hand?

Updated - November 28, 2021 09:53 pm IST

Published - February 17, 2017 12:02 am IST

In action as well as inaction, Governor Ch. Vidyasagar Rao stuck to the constitutional options available to him as he grappled with the rapid twists and turns in the political developments in Tamil Nadu over the last two weeks. There may be some things he could have done differently, but he called the big decisions right. Now, no one disputes that he did the right thing by waiting for the Supreme Court verdict in the disproportionate wealth case against V.K. Sasikala . He also didn’t waste too much time before swearing in Edappadi K. Palaniswami as Chief Minister once he was elected leader of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam Legislature Party following the judgment. To have allowed Ms. Sasikala to become Chief Minister at a time when the judgment was imminent or to have given outgoing Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam more time to muster support in the State Assembly would have been serious lapses on the Governor’s part. He did well to ignore the curious advice of Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, who advocated a composite floor test. Leaving aside whether or not this suggestion reflected the desire of the Bharatiya Janata Party leadership at the Centre, which seemed favourably disposed to Mr. Panneerselvam, it would have resulted in splitting the AIADMK down the middle and plunging the State into political instability. There are precedents for a composite floor test, but these were conducted in truly extraordinary circumstances and when specifically mandated by the judiciary. The situation in Tamil Nadu did not warrant such a course.


By backing Mr. Palaniswami, the Sasikala camp may have succeeded in preventing further erosion of support among the public for the AIADMK, which seemed in danger of imploding at one time. The new Chief Minister belongs to the dominant Gounder community and enjoys a support base independent of the Sasikala clan. Unlike Mr. Panneerselvam, who was something of a diehard Sasikala loyalist before he switched sides, Mr. Palaniswami is known to keep his own counsel. But given the peculiar situation he finds himself in, he will probably have no choice but to carry along the members of the Sasikala clan. Particularly, he will have to work in close coordination with T.T.V. Dinakaran, Ms. Sasikala’s nephew, who will now run the party in her absence as the recently nominated deputy general secretary. It will be no surprise if Mr. Dinakaran, who was removed from the AIADMK in 2011 by Jayalalithaa for “interfering with government administration”, attempts to influence the affairs of the State government. Mr. Palaniswami will have to deal with such pressures, perhaps even rise above them, in the interests of Tamil Nadu. Many in the AIADMK have been tainted by corruption charges, and the onus is on him to replace those memories in the public mind with more immediate concerns of growth and development. He will have to save the AIADMK from itself.

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