In a surprising move Wednesday, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami dropped state’s Information and Technology Minister Dr M Manikandan from the council of ministers. This is the first time since becoming the Chief Minister in 2017 that Edappadi has dropped a minister. The Tamil Nadu government’s cabinet’s strength has now reduced to 31.
The move comes after Manikandan said the decision to reduce the cable TV monthly subscription was taken by the Chief Minister without his concurrence and criticised his cabinet colleague Udumalai K Radhakrishnan for conflict of interest on the cable TV issue. Such a sudden departure of ministers was more prevalent during the regime of late chief minister J Jayalalithaa.
Though the dual leadership structure is been followed by the AIADMK party, Manikandan’s ouster by Edappadi is being seen as a strong message to his entire cabinet. A few days ago, minister Velumani released a video urging the residents to take up #RainwaterChallenge. The move was quite a surprise as it is quite unusual for an AIADMK minister to become the face of a social media campaign given that all previous ones have been invariably associated with either the late J Jayalalithaa or the Chief Minister.
Governor Banwarilal Purohit accepted the recommendation of the Chief Minister to drop Manikandan from the state council of ministers. “Based on the recommendation of the Chief Minister, the portfolio of Information Technology has been re-allocated to Thiru R.B.Udhayakumar, Minister for Revenue and Disaster Management, who shall be re-designated as Minister for Revenue & Disaster Management and Information Technology,” read a release from Raj Bhavan.
Manikandan said that the Chief Minister did not consult him before appointing Radhakrishnan as the chairman of TACTV or before deciding to cut down the Arasu cable TV charges. According to sources, Manikandan had been in a constant tussle with few of the party members. In 2017, he accused MP Anwar Raja of stealing credit for the works he had done in the district. He also had a confrontation with Thiruvadanai MLA Karunas who claimed that Manikandan was preventing him from discharging his duties.
Animal Husbandry Minister Udumalai Radhakrishnan was re-appointed as the TACTV chairman on July 22 in a bid to revive Arasu Cable TV. Radhakrishnan had said that strict action would be taken against the private cable TV operators if they don’t provide Arasu cable TV’s STBs (set-top boxes) to the consumers. On July 31st, Chief Minister said that the Arasu Cable TV subscription which is now available at 270 rupees per month would be reduced to a monthly charge of Rs 130, excluding GST from August 10 across the state.
The appointment of Radhakrishnan and CM’s order had irked Manikandan. While addressing the reporters on Wednesday at Paramakudi in Ramanathapuram district, then IT Minister said, “He (Radhakrishnan) is well-versed in cable TV operations, we have to wait and watch how he performs. He has said that those who had shifted from Arasu Cable TV to private networks should immediately shift back to state-run Arasu Cable TV, these things cannot be shifted back overnight. Radhakrishnan himself is running a private cable network called the Akshaya network which has around two lakh connections. First, let him shift his subscribers to Arasu Cable TV and then he can ask others. If he does that, the revenue would automatically increase for the government.”
Manikandan hails from Ramanathapuram in Tamil Nadu. He did his bachelor’s in medicine from Annamalai University and Masters in Surgery from Sri Ramachandra Medical College. His association with AIADMK began as a deputy secretary of the party’s medical wing. He was slowly elevated to the top tiers of the party and contested in the 2016 Assembly election where he defeated Jawahirullah of Manidhaneyam Makkal Katchi, a DMK ally. He was appointed as the Minister of Information and Technology by late Jayalalithaa despite him hailing from a medical background.
On Thursday, Manikandan said he has no plans of meeting the Chief Minister after he was stripped of his portfolio.