Sasikala Natarajan To Be Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, O Panneerselvam Resigns
Sasikala Natarajan - the longtime companion of J Jayalalithaa who became the party chief after her death - has been elected the chief of AIADMK's legislature party, clearing the decks for her takeover as the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu. O Panneerselvam, the current incumbent of the post who had proposed her name at the party's internal meeting this afternoon, announced his resignation. Ms Natarajan's elevation ends a period of intense speculation and fulfills the vociferous demands of a section of the party who contended that it was unwise to for the party and government to have different power centres in the state.
In her lifetime, Ms Jayalalithaa occupied both posts and after taking charge of the party, Ms Natarjan had promised to follow in her footsteps.
After the announcement, Ms Natarjan appeared in front of supporters on the balcony where the former Chief Minister often seen, hands folded, in a dark green sari -- a colour greatly favoured by Jayalalithaa. Tamil Nadu's Iron Lady had even worn the colour after the sweeping victory of the AIADMK in the last assembly elections.
Mr Panneerselvam, 65, who had stood in for Jayalalithaa twice earlier when she was arrested on charges of corruption, was made the Chief Minister after her death in December last year.
Ms Natarajan, 61, is not an elected member of the assembly and had never held any post in the party. Chinamma (mother's younger sister) as she is fondly called by supporters had taken charge of the party after a lot of coaxing from the partymen. After her acceptance of the top party post, there has been calls for Mr Panneerselvam to step down.
It was expected that Ms Natarajan would take over as chief minister by the end of January, but the massive protests across the state over demanding the removal of a ban on Jallikattu -- the bull taming sport organised during the harvest festival of Pongal - had delayed it, sources had said.
But Ms Natarajan's takeover has been preceded by a series of changes both in the government and the party. On Friday, a team of bureaucrats appointed by Ms Jayalalithaa had been shifted. Sheela Balakrishnan, who was appointed adviser to the Tamil Nadu government after she retired as chief secretary in 2014, was relieved of her duties on Friday. She was known to be close to Jayalalithaa and Sasikala. Two other secretaries to the Chief Minister, Venkataramanan and Ramalingam, who were part of Jayalalithaa's team, have also been relieved.
On Friday, Ms Natarajan also added 23 people to the existing 38 office bearers at the headquarters.
The opposition DMK has protested, asking how Ms Natarajan, who has no political or administrative experience, can be picked to lead the government. "She has no experience. Was not even elected, don't know what her policies are. How can she be CM?" said a senior leader of the party.