J Jayalalithaa’s trusted aide and Finance Minister O Panneerselvam was sworn in as the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu Monday night. Her close friend Sasikala Natarajan is likely to take control of the AIADMK.
Sources said Sasikala or a leader of her choice would be named the new general secretary of the party. “Panneerselvam will become the Chief Minister while Sasikala herself or M Thambidurai, AIADMK MP and Lok Sabha Deputy Speaker, will be elected party general secretary,” a senior leader of the party said.
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A state minister ruled out any threat to the AIADMK. “We are the third largest party in Parliament with a total of 50 MPs in both Houses. As long as we support the BJP at the Centre, there will not be any attempt to destabilise us. Panneerselvam as Chief Minister and Thambidurai as general secretary will make the party strong.”
The most senior leader in the cabinet who served as Chief Minister twice, Panneerselvam will be assisted by Sheela Balakrishnan as advisor. Asked about a tussle between Sasikala and Panneerselvam, a senior leader said: “Sasikala has no enemies in the party now.”
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The BJP too is interested in pushing the name of Thambidurai as AIADMK general secretary. He hails from the Kongu belt in western Tamil Nadu where AIADMK has a strong cadre base, an area that ranks high in BJP’s future politics.
“Both Panneerselvam and Thambidurai will never go against the wishes of Amma. In her absence, they will listen to Chinnamma (Sasikala) provided they are given deserving posts. Sasikala will be the power centre who will have the controls from the Poes Garden residence of Jayalalithaa,” a party MP said.