Senior AIADMK leader Edappadi K Palaniswami is set to take over as Tamil Nadu’s new chief minister in a couple of days after sources confirmed on Wednesday that he would likely be called by the governor to form the next government.
Palaniswami – the state minister for highways, public works and minor ports – might be called by governor C Vidyasagar Rao late on Wednesday. The 62-year-old has claimed the support of 123 MLAs, more than the majority mark in the 234-member assembly.
Palaniswami was elected leader of the AIADMK legislature party on Tuesday soon after party chief VK Sasikala was convicted by the Supreme Court in a two-decade-old corruption case.
He is a staunch loyalist of “Chinnamma” and was groomed by former chief minister J Jayalalithaa, whose death last December set off a furious power struggle between Sasikala and caretaker chief minister O Panneerselvam.
The governor called Palaniswami at 7.30 pm and Panneerselvam an hour later.
Sources said Palaniswami emerged as the clear winner in the numbers game as Panneerselvam , failed to muster enough support, even 24 hours after Sasikala was knocked out of the race by her conviction.
Sources said legal advisers told the governor that in the present circumstances, there was no alternative but to invite Palaniswami to form the next government and prove his majority on the floor of the assembly. Though Palaniswami has claimed the support of 123 MLAs, the exact number would be known on the floor of the House, they said.
The Panneerselvam camp celebrated the conviction of Sasikala on Tuesday with the hope of large-scale defections from her camp, allegedly held captive at Golden Bay Resorts near Chennai.
But nothing of that sort had happened and except for one MLA, S Saravanan representing Madurai South, who filed a kidnap case against Sasikala, no other MLA from her camp shifted their loyalty to Panneerselvam.
Though Panneerselvam was planning to go to Raj Bhavan to meet the governor Tuesday evening to claim that he had enough numbers, he only deputed his supporters – AIADMK MP V Maitreyan and senior leader P H Pandian -- to Raj Bhavan to request Rao not to invite Palaniswami to form the government. The two leaders, however, could not substantiate their allegation that the MLAs were forcibly confined in the resort and that they actually owed allegiance to Panneerselvam.
Till Wednesday evening, Pannerselvam group could not get enough numbers. As a result, the legal advisers to the governor are learnt to have suggested that it would be appropriate to give an opportunity to Palaniswami to form the next government and prove his majority in the House.