CHENNAI: Tamil Nadu Chief Minister O Panneerselvam stepped down on Sunday, clearing decks for Sasikala Natarajan – the longtime companion of J Jayalalithaa, who became the party chief after her death to take over the reins of power in the state. At an internal meeting this afternoon, Ms Natarajan was elected the chief of AIADMK’s legislature party, fulfilling 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. Her election ends a period of intense speculation about her takeover as the Chief Minister which a section in the party considered as a given.
AIADMK general secretary VK Sasikala was on Sunday elected as legislature party leader by MLAs during a party meeting, paving way for her to become next Tamil Nadu chief minister.
“Chinnamma all set to become the Next Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu,” AIADMK said in a tweet.
Panneerselvam proposed her name at the meeting of AIADMK legislators, party leaders said. “I resigned and we elected Sasikala unanimously as leader of the party in assembly. All MLAs are in support,” said Panneerselvam.
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.
There were speculations 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 preceeded 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.
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