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In what is to be seen as a visible power shift at the top of Tamil Nadu government, the Chief Minister O Panneerselvam has removed three top officials appointed by J Jayalalithaa from CM’s office on Friday. While former chief secretary Sheela Balakrishnan was asked to quit as adviser to the Tamil Nadu government, where she was appointed by the late CM Jayalalithaa in March 2014 after retirement, key faces, who were also trusted aides of Jayalalithaa, including K N Venkataramanan and A Ramalingam, the Secretary I and IV in CMO, are the other top officials removed from their posts.
A top government source, confirming the report said: “…while Ramalingam’s removal was expected for his close links with Sheela, Venkataramanan, who had a good rapport with Sasikala as well, had never expected to face the heat of new political changes happening at the top of AIADMK.” Multiple sources in the party and the government confirm that the latest developments are an indicator to some major political decisions to be heard from the ruling party in few days.
While a senior AIADMK leader said the decision to remove Jayalalithaa loyalists was taken by party chief V K Sasikala and her husband M Natarajan, sources close to Panneerselvam said he was merely obeying the orders from the party considering various factors including unity in party as well as to avoid multiple power centres at the top of administration. The AIADMK leader said it was Natarajan, once a political mentor of late Jayalalithaa after M G Ramachandran’s death and known for his political talents, has suggested these crucial changes at the helm of the government. ”
“A retired IAS officer, who served as the Officer on Special Duty and was thrown out by Jayalalithaa in 2011 for his close links with Natarajan, may be one of the faces to replace Sheela Balakrishnan, Venkataramanan and Ramalingam. Not just these three, the entire CMO is likely to be restructured and the only official likely to retain the post may be Shiv Das Meena IAS,” he said. A source close to CM Panneerselvam said the decision to remove key faces had come from the party. “Chinnamma (Sasikala) seems to have listened to Natarajan,” he said.
When asked on the impact of these administrative decisions and rumours of Sasikala becoming the Chief Minister, he said: “It will have positive impacts in the administration as they were alleged for power abuses as well as their vested interests as they had complete freedom in the decision making before Jayalalithaa’s death. Unlike earlier, the present Chief Secretary (Girija Vaidyanathan) is an efficient officer who could work on her own. She doesn’t need too many people above her to deal with CMO,” he said. On rumours of Sasikala capturing the power, he said even Chinnamma may be uncertain of taking such a decision. However, further strengthening the reports of Sasikala emerging as the CM, the party has called the meeting of its MLAs on February 5.