Jayalalithaa Loyalist Panneerselvam Is New Tamil Nadu Chief Minister

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 Chennai: O Panneerselvam took oath as Tamil Nadu Chief Minister at around 1.15 am on Tuesday, a few hours after his party chief J Jayalalithaa died at Chennai's Apollo Hospital. He placed Ms Jayalalithaa's photograph on the dais before taking oath and after being sworn in, put the picture into his pocket. 31 other ministers were sworn in along with him at the state's Raj Bhawan or Governor's residence, all of them members of the previous Jayalalithaa cabinet.

It was a long night in Chennai. The oath ceremony happened even as Jayalalithaa's body was still at Apollo hospital, which announced her death a little before midnight. Ms Jayalalithaa, who had a cardiac arrest on Sunday evening, died at 11.30 pm Monday, the hospital said. She was 68.


The iconic leader's body was taken first to her Poes Garden residence in Chennai and then, very early in the morning, to the city's Rajaji Hall, where it is now kept for people to pay tribute. Tamil Nadu has declared a seven day morning and schools and colleges will be closed for three days. Mr Panneerselvam, 65, was elected by the ruling AIADMK's lawmakers to lead them at a midnight meeting at the party's office, his status as staunch Jayalalithaa loyalist making him the most acceptable candidate to carry on her work.

For OPS, as he is known to colleagues and party workers, it was the third oath as Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, once again in difficult circumstances. The other two times he was sworn in as a stop-gap Chief Minister when Ms Jayalalithaa had to step down over corruption charges.


The second time was two years ago, when he wept as he took oath; his leader had been sentenced to jail by a Bangalore court in a disproportionate assets case. Eight months later, Ms Jayalalithaa was acquitted and was back as chief minister, and Mr Panneerselvam as her second in command.

The AIADMK swept to power in this year's assembly election, Mr Panneerselvam was made Finance Minister, the first minister to take oath after Chief Minister Jayalalithaa was sworn in.

After Ms Jayalalithaa was hospitalised in September, the governor handed Mr Panneerselvam charge of the eight ministries that she personally supervised, and he also chaired cabinet meetings.



In both his earlier stints, the first in 2001, Mr Panneerselvam was mindful of his interim status, refusing to use the office or chair of the Chief Minister to show his reverence to Ms Jayalalithaa. He operated out of his ministry's office.  

At the cabinet meetings that he presided over while his leader was ill, Mr Panneerselvam placed a photograph of Jayalalithaa on the table.   

In his last tenure as Chief Minister for eight months, Mr Panneerselvam was charged by the opposition with poor governance and ineffectual administration, with opposition leader MK Stalin writing in an open letter to him that, "Tamil Nadu is in the ICU and its vital signs are a cause for extreme concern."




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