A tearful AIADMK leader O Panneerselvam was sworn in as Tamil Nadu chief minister on Monday as some of his ministerial colleagues broke down in an emotional ceremony two days after party chief J Jayalalithaa was jailed in a corruption case.
The new chief minister pulled out a handkerchief to wipe his tears as he took the oath with a picture of Jayalalithaa in his hand at Raj Bhavan in Chennai where emotions have been running high since the AIADMK chief was sentenced to four years in prison in a disproportionate assets case.
The 66-year-old Jayalalithaa, who has a cult following in Tamil Nadu, approached the Karnataka high court on Monday challenging the conviction and the matter is expected to come up before a vacation bench on Tuesday.
Most of the 30 MLAs who followed Panneerselvam were sobbing and their voices were low as they were sworn into the new council of ministers.
Before they came for the swearing-in, many of them participated in AIADMK protests against Jayalalithaa’s conviction. Angry Jayalalithaa supporters held protests in Chennai and Bangalore over the weekend with hundreds of party workers damaging vehicles and wailing women throwing themselves on the ground.
The 63-year-old Panneerselvam was rewarded for his loyalty and devotion to Jayalalithaa for the second time: the former film-star-turned-politician handed over responsibility to him in 2001 following her conviction in a land deals case that was later overturned.
The conviction effectively slams the door on Jayalalithaa’s political career for some years. But analysts say the powerful politician, who is popularly known as Amma, is likely to pull the strings from behind bars with a staunch loyalist occupying the chief minister’s chair.
Unless her conviction is overturned by a higher court, Jayalalithaa runs the risk of being barred from contesting elections for 10 years — four years while she is in jail and six after release.
Jayalalithaa and three of her close aides are lodged in Bengaluru’s central jail after being convicted in the corruption case.