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Will Tamil Nadu chief minister Palaniswami be his own man?

Tamil Nadu needs to get back to normalcy, and for that it is vital that a functioning, stable government is in place. It is up to Edappadi K Palaniswami to deliver that

editorials Updated: Feb 16, 2017 23:42 IST
Chennai: AIADMK senior leader and newly-appointed Tamil Nadu chief minister Edappadi K Palaniswami (second from right), along with other party MLAs. (File photo)
Chennai: AIADMK senior leader and newly-appointed Tamil Nadu chief minister Edappadi K Palaniswami (second from right), along with other party MLAs. (File photo)(PTI)

Tamil Nadu has been in the media’s focus for about six months now — and it has mostly been for the wrong reasons. The most prominent and long-running has been the political crisis the ruling AIADMK has been facing.

Since September 22, when the late chief minister J Jayalalithaa was admitted to a private hospital in Chennai, the state government has been on tenterhooks. Such was the level of secrecy surrounding her health that this in itself led to much unwanted speculation — for a party that was visibly dependent on one leader the vacuum was debilitating. It has seen the taking over of O Panneerselvam, Jayalalithaa’s demise, VK Sasikala’s political emergence, Mr Panneerselvam’s resignation to clear the way for Sasikala, the revolt between the two leaders, Sasikala’s conviction in a DA case and now Edappadi K Palaniswami’s swearing-in as chief minister. This is excessive even by the standards of Indian politics. In addition to this political mayhem, Tamil Nadu has seen a cyclone, the Jallikattu protests, a severe drought, and an oil spill.

Read | Here is how Tamil Nadu chief minister Edappadi Palaniswami will impact BJP, Delhi

Now Tamil Nadu needs to get back to normalcy, and for that it is vital that a functioning, stable government is in place. It is up to Mr Palaniswami to deliver that.

There are many challenges but there is also promise that things will soon stabilise. What he inherits is not the strong AIADMK that broke a 30-year anti-incumbency cycle and came to power in May. Instead, the AIADMK today has different factions that could further destabilise the party. The fact that Mr Palaniswami has retained most of the ministers in the Panneerselvam cabinet shows that it would take little time for the new team of ministers to get back to governance. Also the fact that majority of the party MLAs are with the new CM (the faction that backs Sasikala) increases the chances for a stable government. That, however, will be proved when the floor test is conducted.

Read | Panneerselvam camp defiant, says fight for Tamil Nadu CM’s post not over yet

Much of the confusion and political uncertainty could have been avoided had Governor C Vidyasagar Rao not delayed swearing in the next CM soon after Mr Panneerselvam resigned. No official reason has been given for this delay of more than 10 days.

Mr Rao has given the new CM a fortnight to show the required numbers on the floor of the House. Now it is for the Speaker of the assembly to call for a floor test at the earliest, because, going by the events of the past week, political uncertainty could extend till then.

Read | Sasikala convicted, now focus on governance

Mr Palaniswami is the eighth person to take the oath as Tamil Nadu’s CM and if he wins the floor test he has the opportunity to bring about a much-needed change in the way politics is conducted in the AIADMK and Tamil Nadu. The question is: Will he be his own man, or, as many allege, take orders from Sasikala who is in jail in neighbouring Karnataka?