New CM has big shoes to fill
Following the demise of Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa, O Panneerselvam was sworn in as the new Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu at a simple function held at Raj Bhavan in the wee hours of Tuesday.
Along with him 31 Cabinet Ministers were also sworn in. Governor Ch Vidyasagar Rao administered the oath of office and oath of secrecy to the Council of Ministers.
For Panneerselvam, it is the third term as Chief Minister. Earlier, he held the office in 2001 and 2014. After he assumed the office, the rest of the Ministers took the oath together and the swearing in ceremony was over within 10 minutes.
Earlier on Monday, Panneerselvam was elected as the leader of AIADMK legislature party at a meeting held at party headquarters here. The meeting lasted for 45 minutes. From there, all MLAs straightaway drove for Raj Bhavan. Later, the Council of Ministers posed for a picture with the Governor. Later, they left for Poes Garden residence of Jayalalithaa.
In her biography of the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, Amma: Jayalalithaa’s Journey from Movie Star to Political Queen, Vaasanthi writes that Panneerselvam, who belongs to the Thevar community, was a son of a “poor farmer” and a “humble man, known for his modesty”. She writes about the first time that Panneerselvam was asked to step in her shoes.
Panneerselvam, along with his friend Vijayan, set up a tea stall, PV Canteen (now named Rosie Canteen), in the 1970s. A decade later, the canteen was handed over to his younger brother and mild-mannered Panneerselvam subsequently entered politics in 1996, and became the chairperson of the Periyakulam municipality in Theni district.
The demise of his beloved leader has left new Tamil Nadu Chief Minister O Panneerselvam shaken.
He hugged Narendra Modi emotionally on a couple of occasions on Tuesday as the Prime Minister approached the casket containing Jayalalithaa’s body to pay his last respects.
The atmosphere was surcharged as Modi, amid tight security, walked into Rajaji Hall, where the AIADMK supremo’s body is lying in state.
As he walked towards Panneerselvam after placing a wreath near the body, the latter broke down and hugged him. Modi affectionately patted him, suggesting that he be strong. As Modi walked back to his vehicle, Panneerselvam again hugged him with tears in his eyes.
O Panneerselvam, who was accepted as stand-in CM on two previous occasions, hardly matches his leader’s stature. But a likely transition, probably under OPS, may bring to the fore the capabilities of the partymen, who were deprived of a definite role in the past. The immediate test for the ruling party is the upcoming local body polls.
A senior political analyst said that for the party to stay united and strengthen itself, it has to be through a presidium of sub-regional leaders. “If anyone tries to outsmart the other, it would only lead to disintegration, as happened immediately after MGR,” he added.