With her three-year-old son in tow, V Radhika Selvi -- DMK's first time MP and widow of an alleged slain don -- took charge as Minister of State for Home.
She wasted no time to move into her new office in the North Block. She was directed to do so as announced by her party boss and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi – immediately after President APJ Abdul Kalam administered the oath of office and secrecy to her at a three-minute ceremony in the Durbar Hall of Rashtrapati Bhawan.
A DMK leader said she told Home Minister Shivraj Patil that she wanted to make her first official call on him before Rahu Kalam – the period of the day considered inauspicious by many Tamils.
"What do you know about my slain husband? Who told you that he was a don?" asked Selvi as a TV reporter thrust a mike for her response about her background when she walked into her office.
"Do you think my leader (Karunanidhi) would have made me a MP and a minister if I was a don's wife? It is a campaign against me only in north India," said Selvi as she made her son, Rakshan, sit on her lap to pose for photographers. Her proud parents, Mohan Arumugam and Thangapushpam, and siblings stood by.
The DMK was led by a strong posse of its ministers and MPs led by Union Ministers A Raja who had taken charge of Communications and IT in place of Dayanidhi Maran who quit as desired by Karunanidhi, triggering the changes in the Union Cabinet.
Selvi is 31. A post-graduate in English, she waded into politics soon after the killing of her husband Venkatesa Panniyar in a police encounter in Chennai in September 2003 during the AIADMK rule.
Hailing from a well-off Nadar family from Tuticorin district, Panniyar was wanted in more than 20 cases, including extortion and holding of kangaroo courts known as kattu panchayat.
Police then said he was killed after he opened fire when they had gone to arrest him on the basis of a complaint given by a businessman named Samir.
Selvi campaigned for the Lok Sabha polls in 2004 for the Tiruchendur seat -- carrying Raksan, then a six-month infant in her arms, making the police encounter killing of her husband a major issue. The Nadar community was upset over the killing. Selvi was pregnant when her husband was shot dead and vowed to avenge the killing and joined the DMK.
By nominating Selvi, who is said to be close to Karunanidhi's daughter, Kanimozhi (who is born of a Nadar mother), DMK leaders said the chief minister was reaching out to the community, to which late veteran Congress leader Kamraj also belonged. It was also to curb the growing influence of Sarathkumar, who quit the Rajya Sabha and the DMK to make plans for floating a political party before the year-end.
"As advised by the Prime Minister, the President has directed that V Radhika Selvi be allocated the portfolio of Minister of State in the Ministry of Home Affairs," a Rashtrapati Bhavan communiqué said shortly before she took oath in the presence of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Union Ministers Pranab Mukherjee, P Chidambaram and Shivraj Patil.