AIADMK chief J Jayalalithaa made a triumphant return as Tamil Nadu’s chief minister for the fifth time on Saturday as she was sworn in at a simple ceremony in the Madras University Centenary Auditorium.
The 67-year-old made a comeback nearly eight months after she resigned following her conviction in a corruption case.
Governor K Rosaiah administered the oath of office and secrecy to Jayalalithaa at the same venue where she was sworn in after winning a landslide victory in 2011 state assembly polls. Clad in a green sari, she took the oath in Tamil.
Twenty-eight ministers, including her close aide O Panneerselvam who had served as chief minister in her absence, were also sworn in.
Video:Jayalalithaa returns as Tamil Nadu CM
Jayalalithaa returned to power less than a fortnight after the Karnataka High Court acquitted her in the 19-year-old case related to assets disproportionate to her known sources of income.
AIADMK legislators elected Jayalalithaa as leader of the legislature party during a meeting at the party’s headquarters on Friday. Panneerselvam also resigned as chief minister. Following this, the Governor invited Jayalalithaa to form the government.
No senior leader of the main opposition DMK party was seen at the swearing-in ceremony.
The ceremony went off smoothly with clockwork precision. Spotted in the front rows of the jam-packed auditorium were Jayalalithaa’s famous neighbour, film superstar Rajnikanth, film star Sharat Kumar, ICC chief N Srinivasan, industrialist and former cricket administrator AC Muthaiah, Union minister of state Pon Radhakrishnan, BJP national secretary H Raja, Lok Sabha deputy speaker Thambi Durai, and other several film personalities.
As soon as Jayalalithaa rose to take oath, vociferous slogans rent the air. The moment she began taking oath, another round of applause followed. With a flourish, she signed the oath of office and secrecy and became the chief minister for the fifth time.
She has won elections thrice, but on a previous occasion too Jayalalithaa had to leave office for few months after she was convicted in another graft case. She came back after she was exonerated by the Madras High Court.
At that time too, Panneerselvam had kept the seat warm for her.
On the way from her residence to Madras University, a distance of seven kilometres, Jayalalithaa sat in the front seat of her white SUV, flashing victory signs and politely folding hands to thank her thousands of supporters who lined the route.
When Jayalalithaa entered the auditorium, she was greeted by Panneerselvam with a bouquet. Jayalalithaa also greeted Governor Rosaiah with a bouquet.
In less than half an hour, the ceremony was over with the national anthem. Crowds outside on the streets continued their “Jaya, Jaya, Jaya Jaya he” slogans in Amma’s praise.
Jayalalithaa retained most of the old hands who were part of her council of ministers when she was chief minister during 2011-14. This includes Panneerselvam as finance minister, Natham R Viswanathan, R Vaithilingam, Edappadi K Palaniswami and P Mohan.
The AIADMK chief will hold the portfolios of home, police, public, all India services and general administration.
Jayalalithaa had decimated the main opposition party DMK in the last polls, reducing it to a mere 23 seats in a house of 234, and her legal victory in the corruption case has put the DMK and its patriarch M Karunanidhi in a tight spot.
Already in disarray, and with its leaders Kanimozhi and A Raja facing serious corruption cases in the 2G scam, the DMK can only wait with more nervousness as Jayalalithaa’s return puts her in a commanding position in a state where she tops the popularity charts.