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Can OPS keep the AIADMK together?

December 07, 2016 09:46 IST

O Paneerselvam did not even sit in Jaya's office chamber and left her seat vacant in the assembly.
This time Amma is not coming back to claim her seat and he has a large number of challenges awaiting him.
T E Narasimhan/Business Standard reports.

O P Paneerselvam with other cabinet ministers

For the third time, O Panneerselvam, known as OPS, took oath as the chief minister of Tamil Nadu to replace All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) supremo J Jayalalithaa.

But this time, things are different as the swearing-in ceremony was held hardly a couple of hours after Jayalalithaa passed away on December 5.

Panneerselvam has been her trusted lieutenant and had been the interim chief minister since September 22 as Jayalalithaa was unwell.

As chief minister, he promised to vacate office on Jayalalithaa's return after recovery.

He did not even sit in the now deceased leader's office chamber and left her seat vacant in the assembly.

He remained humble by not claiming authority and appearing to fulfill his duty on behalf of Tamil Nadu's beloved Puratchi Thalaivi Amma, as the late Jayalalithaa is referred to by AIADMK leaders and workers.

However, this time Amma is not coming back to claim her seat and Panneerselvam has a large number of challenges awaiting him in the coming four years.

The key challenge would be to keep the party together, which now has to work hard to reinvent itself in the post-Jayalalithaa period.

The whole party has revolved around a single leader -- Jayalalithaa -- so far.

Political analysts believe that there is no one within the party who can either match the charisma of party founder M G Ramachandran or Jayalalithaa's leadership skills.

Congress leader and former finance minister P Chidambaram said Tamil Nadu was regarded as among the better governed states. However, the AIADMK must continue and provide stable governance for the remaining tenure of over four years -- a feeling echoed by leaders of other political parties and analysts.

In the past, Jayalalithaa's period of absence has been a muted one, where no major announcements were made and no major decisions were taken.

The new government has the added task of winning the confidence of its own people on this front.

The other task facing the AIADMK is to sustain Brand Amma, which is important to rebuild the party.

Jayalalithaa created an appeal among the masses by spearheading a string of 'poor-friendly' programmes like the Unagavagam (canteen) scheme, a health scheme that covers the entire cost of a health check-up.

Apart from these two, there were other programmes related to increasing access to mineral water, medicine, salt and seeds, among others.

Panneerselvam was officially the chief minister for six months beginning September 21 in 2001-2002 after Jayalalithaa was barred from holding office by the Supreme Court of India as she was convicted in a land scam.

The second time he stepped into her shoes was in September 2014 when Jayalalithaa was convicted in a disproportionate assets case. He relinquished the post in May 2015, when she was acquitted by the Karnataka high court in this case.

Panneerselvam has also served the state cabinet as Tamil Nadu's revenue minister and the minister for public works, prohibition and excise.

When the AIADMK's rival, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) ruled Tamil Nadu between 2006 and 2011, Panneerselvam was the Leader of the Opposition in the assembly.

When the AIADMK came back to power in 2011, he became the minister for finance and public works, which he kept even after becoming the CM following Jayalalithaa's September 2014 conviction.

T E Narasimhan
Source: