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OPS likely to head Tamil Nadu govt as EPS goes abroad to woo foreign investors

Leaving Chennai on August 28, the Tamil Nadu chief minister and his entourage, comprising his ministerial colleagues including those holding Industry and Health portfolios besides top officials will return home on September 9, official sources said.

india Updated: Aug 18, 2019 16:43 IST
MC Rajan
MC Rajan
Hindustan Times, Chennai
Tamil Nadu chief minister Edappadi K Palaniswami (EPS) with deputy chief minister  O Panneerselvam (OPS) in Chennai.
Tamil Nadu chief minister Edappadi K Palaniswami (EPS) with deputy chief minister O Panneerselvam (OPS) in Chennai.(PTI PHOTO.)
         

With chief minister Edappadi K Palaniswami (EPS) all set to proceed on a foreign trip, speculation is rife in political circles and in the administration as to who would lead in his absence.

Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam (OPS) may return as the titular head for 13 days, but there is a cloud of uncertainty whether he would be back at the helm even for a brief spell, given the feud between the two.

In order to woo foreign investment, EPS is undertaking a trip to the United Kingdom and the United States, where he is scheduled to meet, among others the Tamil diaspora. As of now, the proposal has been formally cleared by the Ministry of External Affairs and is awaiting the final nod from the Prime Minister’s Office.

Leaving Chennai on August 28, the Tamil Nadu chief minister and his entourage, comprising his ministerial colleagues including those holding Industry and Health portfolios besides top officials will return home on September 9, official sources said. This is the first time a chief minister will be on a foreign trip since 1999, when M Karunanidhi visited Singapore. Former chief minister late J Jayalalithaa had never ventured abroad.

However, EPS’s foreign jaunt is believed to have its political fallout with the rivalry between the chief minister and his deputy having resurfaced.

As the number two in the cabinet, OPS is expected to hold the reins in the absence of the chief minister. Yet, there is no clarity on this even in the ruling AIADMK. Moreover, EPS, who has consolidated his position and ensured that OPS is kept on the margins, is said to be reluctant to handover the charge even for a fortnight, say sources in the party.

For OPS, it is more than two and a half years since he was forced to resign as chief minister and launched a revolt in February 2017. According to analysts, though he had returned to the AIADMK fold, accepting primacy in the party as its Convenor and the Deputy Chief Ministership, he mostly remains a figure head, as EPS has been calling the shots, be it political or administrative.

If any proof was needed about EPS emerging as the unquestioned leader in the party and the government, he had removed from the cabinet Informantion Technology Minister M Manikandan for airing criticism about his ministerial colleagues in public. And, now party legislators are lining up to secure that ministerial slot as well as the one remaining vacant due to the conviction of P Balakrishna Reddy.

“Whether it is the selection of candidates in the Lok Sabha polls or the bypoll for 22 Assembly segments, it all had the stamp of EPS. On the other hand, OPS, Convenor of the AIADMK, could only secure the party ticket for his son. None of his loyalists could get the ticket, though the party got mauled in the poll, save his son who scrapped through in Theni. A Gounder himself, EPS has consolidated his position with the backing of the financially sound OBC-Gounder lobby,” reasons Professor V Saravanan, Centre for Jawaharlal Nehru Studies, Jamia Milia University, New Delhi.

“Well OPS being the number two, he will hold the reins when the chief minister is outside the country. But, then it is the prerogative of the chief minister. He may not even think it necessary,” said an AIADMK leader, who did not wish to be identified.

First Published: Aug 18, 2019 16:42 IST

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