K Palanisamy: Rebel who became the chosen one for AIADMK

As a young man, Palanisamy sided with the fiery Jayalalithaa and successfully contested from Edappadi on the rooster symbol.

Published: 15th February 2017 05:26 AM  |   Last Updated: 15th February 2017 05:26 AM   |  A+A-

AIADMK party members outside poes garden cheer Sasikala and Edapadi Palanisamy who has been selected as legislative party leader. | (Ashwin Prasath | EPS)

By Express News Service

SALEM, CHENNAI: After long-time loyalist O Panneerselvam raised a banner of revolt and the Supreme Court verdict on Tuesday that debarred party general secretary V K Sasikala from contesting any elections in the near future, the search for an alternative within the party was rather easy.

As an influential leader from the powerful Gounder community, K Palanisamy, the 62-year-old from Edappadi village in Salem district, was an almost automatic choice as the leader of Legislature Party.

Hailing from an agrarian family, Palanisamy had his electoral debut in almost similar circumstances, when the AIADMK split into two factions headed by party founder M G Ramachandran’s wife, Janaki Ramachandran, and the rebel, J Jayalalithaa.

As a young man, Palanisamy sided with the fiery Jayalalithaa and successfully contested from Edappadi on the rooster symbol that was allotted to the faction in the 1989 Assembly election.

He was given the ticket to contest from Edappadi in 1991, 1996, 2006, 2011 and 2016; he won thrice – in 1991, 2011 and 2016. He also contested the 1998 Lok Sabha election from Thiruchengode and won, but lost in 1999 and 2004 from the same constituency.

Compared to the rest of the Kongu belt in western Tamil Nadu like C Ponnaiyan, T M Selvaganapathy, K A Sengottaiyan and S Semmalai, Edappadi had a lower profile till the 2011 elections. As Palanisamy remained in the background as the Salem West district secretary between 1996 and 2011, it was the charismatic Selvaganapathy and the veteran Ponnaiyan who ruled the party apparatus from 1991 to 2001. Then Semmalai returned to prominence in the 2001-2006 period as a minister and Salem West district secretary. 

In the party, he was the Salem West district praesidium chairman from 1991 and was later elevated as the AIADMK propaganda secretary, deputy secretary, All India MGR Manram and AIADMK organisational secretary. At present, he is the Salem Unified rural district secretary and is also the party’s disciplinary committee member.

However, Palanisamy consolidated his position within the party after the 2011 victory. It did help that Selvaganapathy crossed over to the DMK, while Ponnaiyan, Semmalai, and Sengottaiyan were sidelined. Following this, he became part of the inner coterie that formed Jaya’s first lieutenants – a gang of four led by the rebel chief minister Panneerselvam. He was made the minister of highways and minor ports.

Party insiders say Palanisamy is credited with mopping up funds, often considered as the de facto treasurer – Panneerselvam has been the treasurer for long. It was during this period that he is said to have got closer to Sasikala. Such was his clout in just one term that in the run-up to the May 2016 elections, he managed to sideline seniors in the district and ensured seats for new faces.

In the polls, AIADMK won 10 of the 11 seats in Salem district, which put Palanisamy in good stead. The party performed spectacularly in the whole western region, where it won nine on 10 in Coimbatore district, 8 on 8 Erode, 6 on 8 in Tirupur, 5 on 6 in Namakkal, 3 on 5 in Dharmapuri, and 3 on 6 in Krishnagiri. 

In the State Cabinet headed by Panneerselvam, he was technically the third in hierarchy after Panneerselvam and Dindigul’ C Srinivasan. Palanisamy controls most of the party apparatus from union secretaries and district secretaries, and also most of the elected representatives of cooperative societies. His influence ensured that no sitting MLA or office bearers from the region moved to Panneerselvam – except Semmalai who switched camps on Tuesday morning.


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