CHENNAI: DMK’s crown prince MK Stalin’s scheme to capture power through the back door were foiled when the Panneerselvam faction was shown the door.
The OPS faction would have expected the DMK’s support to defeat Chief Minister K Palaniswami and regain his seat. It is Stalin’s first major setback after the elction defeat in 2016, which will force him to wait for another four years to make a bid for the catbird seat in Fort St.
George. Even though Sasikala has been jailed for four years, her 62-year-old nominee seems to have the reins of the government firmly in hand.
The new Tamil Nadu Chief Minister is from an agrarian family in Edappadi village in Salem district.His electoral debut was in almost similar circumstances, when the AIADMK split into two factions headed by party founder M G Ramachandran’s wife, Janaki Ramachandran, and J Jayalalithaa.
As a young man, Palaniswami sided with Amma and successfully contested from his home seat on the rooster symbol allotted to her faction in the 1989 Assembly elections.
Later, his loyalty ensured him the party ticket again 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.
From 1991 to 2001, Palaniswami remained in the background, while party colleagues, the charismatic Selvaganapathy and veteran Ponnaiyan ruled the AIADMK’s apparatus in Jaya’s name. His time came when he was later elevated as the AIADMK propaganda secretary, deputy secretary, All India MGR Manram and AIADMK organisational secretary by Jaya.
Palaniswami consolidated his position within the party after its 2011 victory. As his rivals either defected to the DMK or were sidelined, the Amma loyalist became part of the inner coterie that formed Jaya’s first lieutenants—a gang of four led by Panneerselvam. Palaniswamy was made the minister of highways and minor ports in Jaya’s cabinet.
Party insiders say Palaniswami is credited with raising funds, and was considered the de facto treasurer, though O Panneerselvam had been the party treasurer for long.
During this period he got closer to Sasikala. Such was his clout that in the run-up to the May 2016 Assembly polls, he managed to sideline seniors in the district and got seats for his nominess; all new faces.
AIADMK won 10 of the 11 seats in Salem district, which put Palaniswami in good stead. The party performed spectacularly in the western region, where it won nine on 10 in Coimbatore district, eight on eight Erode, six on eight in Tirupur, five on six in Namakkal, three on five in Dharmapuri, and three on six in Krishnagiri.
In OPS’s cabinet after Jaya’s death, Palani was technically the third in hierarchy. He also controls most of the party apparatus from union secretaries and district secretaries, and 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 to his later disappointment.