Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa is looking for an auspicious day to formally launch her assembly poll campaign after apparently finalising the list of candidates for her ruling AIADMK.
The 67-year-old leader, called Amma or mother by her legions of followers, has the advantage to pick from an array of party functionaries without the burden of pleasing any ally since the AIADMK is going solo this election.
But most ministers and MLAs are in the dark about their chances of getting a ticket after she clipped the wings of some of her most senior loyalists — finance minister and former chief minister O Panneerselvam, power minister Natham Viswanathan and higher education minister D Palaniappan.
Jayalalithaa removed these three top ministers from the panel that interviews poll candidates.
Some of their ardent supporters were stripped off party positions, such as Panneerselvam aide MK Ashok, the MLA for Velachery who was punished for organising a meeting in which schoolgirls were forced to tattoo an Amma image on their arms.
Likewise, six supporters of Pannerselvam were shown the door. Party office-bearers close to the other two ministers were also removed from their posts.
AIADMK sources said these ministers are unlikely to make it to the poll list.
The buzz is that the clout of OPS, as Panneerselvam is known, was growing stronger in the party and Jayalalithaa disapproved of some of his actions.
The 1960s screen idol Jayalalithaa, whose devotees have immolated themselves in her defence in the past, is battling public dissent over the state’s precarious power situation and her government’s alleged ham-fisted measures in providing relief to millions of flood-affected people.
The state was battered by relentless rain in November that caused widespread flooding, drove thousands of people from their homes, shut down factories and paralysed the Chennai airport for close to a week.