N Sathiya Moorthy in Madras
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalitha has dropped one more minister from her team.
Backward Classes Minister Alangudi J Venkatachalam has made way for Valarmathi Jabaraj, the first-term legislator who defeated former speaker P T R Palanivel Rajan in Madurai West constituency last month.
This is the third time Jayalalitha has changed the composition of her Cabinet within a month and a half of assuming office on May 14.
With Tuesday's decision, Jayalalitha has dropped four of the 24 All-India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam legislators who had assumed office after the party swept the assembly election in May.
Earlier, she had sacked three ministers -- Ayyaru Vandayar, Pollachi Jayaraman and Nattham Viswamanthan. Valarmathi Jabaraj's induction means there will continue to be three women in the government apart from the chief minister, because the minister she replaced is also a woman.
Incidentally, Tuesday's entrant will be the second Valarmathi (literally, 'growing moon' or 'full moon') in the Cabinet after B Valarmathi, an old AIADMK hand, who has been in the team since inception.
Rumours that Jayalalitha was planning to reshape the Cabinet again had been doing the rounds since the first changes were made in her team barely three weeks after the new government took office. But there is no denying that these changes are aimed at improving the state administration and also the AIADMK's public image.
Political observers, however, say there is little talent available to Jayalalitha in the AIADMK legislature party. They say this is a result of the reported decision of the party to put loyalty before efficiency when choosing nominees for the assembly election, given pre-poll projections of a hung assembly and possible hurdles in the path of Jayalalitha becoming chief minister.
At the same time, the constant reshuffles are aimed at keeping a tab on political allies as much as adversaries, in the light of the court cases challenging Jayalalitha's assumption of office despite her disqualification from contesting the assembly election.
By moving ministers in and out at will, the chief minister is sending out a message to possible troublemakers about her complete sway over the AIADMK legislature party.
It is also a message to those outside the AIADMK, including interested elements in distant Delhi, that they cannot dream of meddling in the AIADMK affairs.
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