Chennai: E Palaniswami, freshly victorious in a trust vote now challenged by the opposition in the High Court, officially started work as Tamil Nadu's Chief Minister this morning. He walked into the office used by former Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa and sat in the chair she used, unoccupied for over five months since she was hospitalised in September last year.
- E Palaniswami officially started work as chief minister this morning
- Chief minister's chair was unoccupied since Jayalalithaa was hospitalised
- O Panneerselvam did not use her office in his stint as chief minister
Ms Jayalalithaa did not return from the hospital. She died there on December 5 and O Panneerselvam, who took oath hours later, did not use her office or chair. Mr Panneerselvam or OPS, given to obsequious demonstration of his devotion to Ms Jayalalithaa or Amma did not use her office or chair in his earlier short stints as chief minister either - those times he had stood in for the AIADMK's powerful matriarch when she had to resign over corruption charges. In all three terms, he placed her photograph for all cabinet meetings, always clear that he was a proxy for her.
Mr Palaniswami clearly had no such sentimental concerns holding him back. Sitting in Ms Jayalalithaa's office, he signed documents with minsters and senior bureaucrats present this morning. He had his own way of proving his loyalty to Amma - he held up her photograph as he spoke to reporters. Mr Palaniswami has ordered 50 per cent subsidy for two-wheelers for working women, the closure of 500 government run liquor shops and a hike in allowances for pregnant women and unemployed youth. All of these were election promise made by Ms Jayalalithaa, who was re-elected last year.
Mr Palaniswami took oath on Thursday last along with a 30-member cabinet, filling in for party chief VK Sasikala whose chief ministerial aspirations were crushed by the Supreme Court, convicting her in a corruption case. She watched the oath ceremony from jail in Bengaluru.
On Saturday - after five hours of drama that saw legislators yanking mics out, pushing chairs and tables and surrounding the Speaker - the Tamil Nadu Speaker P Dhanapal declared that Mr Palaniswami had won a vote of confidence with 122 votes in his favour. No opposition members voted - the DMK was evicted by the Speaker before voting and the Congress walked out in protest. Eleven votes were cast against the chief minister by the rebel AIADMK faction led by Mr Pannerselvam, who had resigned earlier this month to allow Ms Sasikala to be Chief Minister, but later said he was coerced to resign.
The DMK has said that the trust vote is illegal because it was introduced twice. The speaker had adjourned the assembly twice following ruckus by DMK MLAs. The Madras High Court is likely to hear its plea to cancel the trust vote tomorrow.