Jailed leader’s ally takes reins in south India state

Palanisamy must seek trust vote in 15 days

CHENNAI: All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) party leader Edapadi Palanisamy (C) gestures as he pays his respects at the memorial for former state chief minister Jayalalithaa Jayaram after being sworn in as the Chief Minister of the state of Tamil Nadu in Chennai yesterday. —AFP

NEW DELHI: An ally of disgraced Indian politician VK Sasikala was yesterday appointed the next leader of Tamil Nadu state, ending a weeks-long succession war marked by bitter in-fighting and plot twists. Edappadi Palanisamy took the reins of the ruling party after Sasikala, who was on the verge of becoming chief minister of the southern state, was spectacularly hauled off to prison for graft.

She had already been nominated for the top job before she was convicted Tuesday of amassing illegal assets worth $10 million, barring her from holding office for a decade. Palanisamy, 63, was cleared for the top job after receiving Sasikala’s blessing and a majority vote from the ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam party. “The governor has also requested the chief minister designate Edappadi K.  Palanisamy seek the vote of confidence of the assembly within fifteen days,” the governor’s office said in a statement.

Palanisamy, who served as a senior minister in previous governments, will be sworn in later Thursday. He emerged as the frontrunner after Tuesday’s bombshell court verdict shattered Sasikala’s political ambitions.
Tamil Nadu, one of India’s most prosperous states, was plunged into political crisis after its long-serving chief minister Jayalalithaa Jayaram died suddenly in December. Her close aide Sasikala-a one-time video cassette seller who has never held political office or stood for election-emerged as the heir apparent until a rebellion by an aspirational party colleague blocked her ascent.

She skipped Tuesday’s court hearing and instead stayed at a Chennai resort with several dozen legislators over fears her opponents’ camp might try and poach them before her investiture.

The corruption case dates back to the late 1990s, when Jayalalithaa and Sasikala were accused of profiting from the chief minister’s office and acquiring wealth beyond their income.
They were jointly accused of illegally amassing bungalows, luxury cars, tea estates and vast quantities of gold worth the equivalent of $10 million. Sasikala had spent nearly a month in the same Bangalore prison in 2014 before being let out on bail. – AFP

This article was published on 16/02/2017