The high profile Tamil Nadu Minister Palanivel Thiaga Rajan was on Thursday shifted out of the key portfolio of finance and human resources management and given the information technology department.
The move comes days after the Bharatiya Janata Party released two audio clips, claiming the voice in it was that of Thiaga Rajan, purported to be making some remarks about the assets of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam’s first family.
Rajan had described the clips as "malicious and fabricated," and insisted they were digitally altered tapes.
PTR, as Thiaga Rajan is addressed, thanked Chief Minister M K Stalin for allocating him the IT department.
Thangam Thennarasu, the soft-spoken DMK strongman from southern Tamil Nadu, is the new finance minister. The industries portfolio held by him was allocated to TRB Rajaa, the three-time legislator from Mannargudi constituency who was newly inducted into the council of ministers.
Rajaa, the IT wing secretary of the DMK, is the son of party treasurer and former Union minister T R Baalu. He was sworn-in as minister earlier in the day by TN Governor R N Ravi at an official ceremony in the Raj Bhavan.
PTR thanked the CM for entrusting the IT department to him, even as he said the last two years as finance minister under Stalin was fulfilling for him.
A former international investment banker, Thiaga Rajan's start as a minister in 2021 was dramatic as he began attracting attention right from his early days in the government for his sharp attacks targeting the Centre over GST and devolution to well-performing states and the ground continued to be strong for him.
The first murmur against him started coming from government employees who construed several of his comments as not favouring them and in particular a return to the Old Pension Scheme, promised by the DMK in its manifesto for 2021 assembly election.
In March, the TN government Employees Association hit out at Thiaga Rajan and asked whether his 'social justice' would be for people's welfare and indicated the Minister might only toe a 'corporate' based economic model.
When the BJP released two audio tapes which purportedly contained serious allegations levelled by Thiaga Rajan against some heavyweights connected to the cabinet and the party, the tide began turning against him more.
A section of party men also found him to be not having his ear to the ground when it came to sentiments of party workers and the overall DMK line on some issues.
Soon after he was taken out of the finance department, Thiaga Rajan said the past two years (2021-23) have been the most fulfilling in his life under the leadership of Stalin.
"I am grateful that CM @mkstalin has now assigned me the portfolio of information technology -- globally the #1 industry for investment and job-creation today. We know that technology shapes the future," Thiaga Rajan tweeted, taking the new development in his stride.
Rajan had earlier served as the DMK's IT 2ing secretary as well, before resigning from the post early last year. TRB Rajaa succeeded PTR.
Acknowledging his predecessor T Mano Thangaraj's efforts in the IT department, PTR said he plans to build on the "great efforts" of his cabinet colleague.
"I wish the incoming finance minister @TThenarasu great success and many more achievements as he assumes responsibility today. I am sure he will accelerate the progress already made and deliver new records in his tenure," PTR tweeted.
BJP's Tamil Nadu vice president Narayanan Thirupathy on his Twitter handle said: "If Chief Minister @mkstalin does not accept that @ptrmadurai was incompetent in handling the finance portfolio, then it is obvious that he was shifted for the audio leaks. If he (CM) accepts so, then he has to apologise for appointing a incompetent person to manage the state's finance."
A Raj Bhavan official release said Thiaga Rajan would helm the IT and digital services department.
The IT department portfolio was previously handled by Mano Thangaraj and he has now been assigned the milk and dairy development department. SM Nasar, who held the milk portfolio, was dropped from the cabinet on May 9.
MP Saminathan, information minister, has been given the Tamil development and culture portfolio as well.
Chief Minister MK Stalin’s cabinet reshuffle has been on the cards for a while now.