Exit of Jaya’s officials, rehabilitation trigger speculation
Chennai : The exit of late Jayalalithaa’s trusted officials and rehabilitation of sidelined ruling AIADMK leaders have triggered strong speculations of an imminent change in political leadership in Tamil Nadu. A meeting of all ruling party legislators convened for Sunday by party general secretary V K Sasikala has given credence to the rumours that she could make a bid to replace Chief Minister O Panneerselvam.
Late on Friday it emerged that Sheela Balakrishnan, one of the most-trusted officials in the erstwhile Jayalalithaa dispensation, who was appointed as Advisor to the Government after superannuating as Chief Secretary in March 2012, had quit.
“She was asked to leave ahead of the completion of her scheduled tenure on March 31. Sheela Balakrishnan, who put in her papers, was considered the most powerful officials during the Jayalalithaa regime. She was the one who virtually handled the State’s administration when Jayalalithaa was in hospital for 75 days,” a source said.
The government has also given the boot to Venkataramanan, who was given a five-year extension in service by Jayalalithaa as Secretary-I in the Chief Minister’s Office. Besides, another key man Ramalingam, Secretary-IV in the CMO, who was more or less a fixture at Jayalalithaa’s Poes Garden residence, has been shifted out since he is a serving officer.
All these changes came on a day when Sasikala gave the key post of organising secretaries to 13 second line functionaries who were sidelined by Jayalalithaa. These included former Minister K A Sengottaiyan, a one-time trusted campaign manager of Jayalalithaa who was largely ignored during the past four years, former Chennai Mayor Saidai Duraisamy and former ministers Gokula Indira, B V Ramana and Nainar Nagendran. She also appointed some functionaries as secretaries of key wings of the party.
“People like Sengottaiyan were sulking over the fact that they were kept out of the cabinet even after Jayalalithaa’s death. Now his role as an organiser is being recognised. There are already 10 organising secretaries – all appointed by Jayalalithaa – in the party. Now the number has gone up to 23. One can only infer that Sasikala does not want any hurdles in her plans to take control of the government. Keeping these people in good humour will help her,” said Appasamy, a political commentator.
Sasikala had conducted a meeting of MLAs just a week ago when the Legislative Assembly was in session. Sunday’s will be the second such meeting she is chairing. The AIADMK has officially not given any indication as to why the meeting has been convened. “We have not been informed of any agenda as of now. But it’s anybody’s guess as to why Sasikala has convened the meeting,” said an AIADMK MLA from southern Tamil Nadu unwilling to be named.
Party spokespersons were unavailable for comment. The Jaya TV, the AIADMK mouthpiece, however dismissed talks of Sasikala taking over as Chief Minister as “rumours”.