A four-time lawmaker, Edapaddi Palaniswami is set to be Tamil Nadu's next Chief Minister.
CHENNAI: Handpicked by his mentor VK Sasikala before she left for a Bengaluru jail to serve her four-year sentence for corruption, AIADMK's chief minister Edappadi K Palaniswami was sworn-in as Tamil Nadus chief minister on Thursday evening. Mr Palaniswami received the invitation to form the government from Governor C Vidyasagar Rao earlier in the day after convincing Raj Bhavan that he, and not rival O Panneerselvam, had the majority support within the party. It is a job that Ms Sasikala was hoping to get before the Supreme Court sent her packing to jail, and put her political career on ice. She continues to hold the AIADMK general secretary's post but has left it to Palaniswami to govern Tamil Nadu.
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Mr Palaniswami has beaten O Panneerselvam - who put in his papers from the Chief Minister's job to make way for Sasikala but had second thoughts after meditating at J Jayalalithaa's memorial on Marina Beach - to the top job in the state.
Mr Palaniswami's first challenge will be to prove his majority on the floor of the state assembly within a fortnight.
In the Jayalalithaa cabinet, Mr Palaniswami was acknowledged as the Number 3, next only to Panneerselvam who held the finance portfolio.
Mr Palaniswami, whose loyalty to Ms Sasikala was one of his chief qualifications for his promotion, is a four-time member of the Tamil Nadu legislature.
The 63-year-old minister for highways, public works and minor ports has his roots in Edappadi, a mofussil town in Salem district once known for its powerloom industry.
Mr Palaniswami is from the Gounder community dominant in the western part of Tamil Nadu that firmly backed AIADMK in the 2016 elections. His reward came after the election results when Jayalalithaa appointed him public works minister.
Ms Sasikala was reportedly keen to appoint him the Chief Minister after Ms Jayalalithaa died, but eventually went with Mr Panneerselvam. Ms Sasikala and Mr Panneerselvam are both from the Thevar community, possibly the state's most dominant caste, especially in the South.
This is not the first that Mr Palaniswami has ended up on the right side of the divide in the party.
When a similar leadership tussle hit the AIADMK exactly 30 years back after the death of the party's founder MG Ramachandran, Mr Palaniswami had backed the J Jayalalithaa.
His first break came soon after when he won 1989 assembly elections from Edappadi constituency. He retained the seat in the next election but lost out in the 2006 assembly elections. He returned to the assembly in 2011, and later in 2016.