With supporters packed on either side of Dr Radhakrishnan Salai and the Marina Beach Road to cheer her convoy, and hundreds of women offering the traditional ‘aarti’ all along the stretch leading to the venue, J Jayalalithaa, 68, took oath as the chief minister of Tamil Nadu on Monday for a historic second consecutive term.
She signed five orders soon after the swearing-in, including crop loan waiver for farmers and beginning of a phased prohibition by reducing timing of the state-owned liquor outlets and closing 500 such shops.
The first chief minister to retain office since her mentor M G Ramachandran’s record third consecutive term in 1984, the AIADMK supremo’s swearing-in had political leaders, film stars and industrialists in attendance at a packed centenary auditorium of the University of Madras, the venue for all key functions. Like the last time, all 28 ministers took oath in chorus, as the event was scheduled to wind up in sharp 30 minutes.
While 12 ministers in the new cabinet have held ministerial posts earlier, seven have retained their portfolios.
Thirty-year-old V M Rajalakshmi, the MLA from Sankarankovil, is the youngest member in Jayalalithaa’s cabinet and will look after the Adi Dravidar and Tribal Welfare portfolio.
Union Minister for Urban Development Venkaiah Naidu attended the function on behalf of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Pon Radhakrishnan, a Union minister from the state, was also present. Actors Prabhu, Nasser, Vishal, R Sarathkumar, and singers P Susheela and Vani Jayaram were among the guests from the film industry.
Among those present was DMK leader M K Stalin, whose seating — way behind the VIP seats in front — kicked up a mini-storm, with his father and DMK supremo M Karunanidhi writing a Facebook post to criticise the decision to give Stalin a seat in the back rows while making AIADMK candidates who were defeated in the elections sit in front.
Stalin, sitting alongside several senior DMK MLAs, had attended Jayalalithaa’s swearing-in in 2001. He had skipped it the last time around in 2011. Sources in Jayalalithaa’s office said he was invited as an MLA, like all other legislators. “There was no personal invitation sent to Stalin or M Karunanidhi. Both received the invitations as they are MLAs,” an officer said.
Soon after the oath ceremony, the Chief Minister went to the Secretariat, where she signed five files on Day One, said a statement issued by the government.
Jayalalithaa, who had promised to implement prohibition in a phased manner, signed an order reducing working hours of government-run liquor shops by two hours, according to the statement. As per the revised schedule, TASMAC outlets will now be open between noon and 10 pm. The government has also decided to shut down 500 retail liquor shops across the state.
Another promise in the election manifesto — 100 units of free power in two-month bill cycle — was also implemented, as was the free breakfast scheme for government school students, waiver of crop loans for farmers, and 8 grams of gold to women for “thali”.