Sasikala Loyalist to AIADMK’s CM Face: Who is E Palaniswami?

2021 elections will truly determine if Palaniswami has won the support of the people of Tamil Nadu.

4 min read
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The ruling party AIADMK in Tamil Nadu announced Edappadi Palaniswami (EPS) as the chief ministerial candidate for the May 2021 Assembly polls in Tamil Nadu on Wednesday.

Edappadi Karuppa Palaniswami is the serving chief minister of Tamil Nadu and the joint coordinator of the ruling party, All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK).

This is the first time the state is going for polls without the stalwarts – AIADMK’s J Jayalalithaa and DMK’s M Karunanidhi. The 2021 elections will truly determine if Palaniswami has won the support of the people as this is the first time he will be the face of the party in the election.


Political Journey

Born in 1954 in Erode, he enrolled for B.Sc in Sri Vasavi College but did not graduate. He is married to Ratha Palaniswami and has a son. His journey in politics began in 1974 and later became a key member of the party in Salem.

He was elected to Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly in 1989, 1991, 2011 and 2016 from the Edappadi constituency. He also won the 1998 election and was elected as Member of Parliament, representing Tiruchengodu constituency in the 12th Lok Sabha.

Palaniswami was selected by the AIADMK as Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu in February 2017, following the resignation of O. Panneerselvam. He also holds the charge of Home, Prohibition & Excise Departments.


The Crisis That Made Him the CM

The crisis in the AIADMK began after the demise of party supremo J Jayalalithaa in December 2016.

O Panneerselvam (OPS) had stepped in a couple of times as the chief minister during brief periods of absence by Jayalalithaa.

However, soon after her death, Sasikala took over the control of the party and after the party bylaws were amended, she was made the general secretary. Then Chief Minister O Panneerselvam gave in his resignation on 6 February 2017, and was functioning as the acting chief minister until alternate arrangements were made. The governor delayed announcing VK Sasikala as the new chief minister, waiting for the verdict of the misappropriation case on her.

On 14 February 2017, a two-bench Supreme Court jury pronounced her guilty and ordered her immediate arrest in a disproportionate-assets case, effectively ending her chief ministerial ambitions. Palaniswami, then a Sasikala loyalist, was appointed as the chief minister.

OPS then led a revolt against Sasikala and said she had forced him to hand over the resignation and was working against the principles of the party.

Later in August 2017, EPS and OPS factions merged, and Sasikala and her nephew TTV Dhinakaran, were ousted from the AIADMK.

OPS was then made the head of the party and the deputy chief minister.


The EPS Achievement Chart

In February, the Palaniswami-led AIADMK government released a special souvenir, titled 'Amma Arasin Muthirai Patitha Moondru Aandu, Mudhal Idame Adharku Saandru,’ listing their achievements in the last three years.

Some of them include the 'Kudimaramathu' scheme to rejuvenate water bodies across the state, declaration of Cauvery delta area as 'Protected Agriculture Zone', carving out of five new districts, getting the centre's sanction for 11 new medical colleges in different districts and the launch of a police app to ensure women's security. He had also traveled abroad to attract a lot of industrial investment.


The Lok Sabha Debacle

The 2019 elections saw the AIADMK failing majorly when the opposition party DMK, led by former party chief Karunanidhi’s son, Stalin, swept the elections, winning 37 of the 38 Lok Sabha seats along with its allies.

Many analysts believed that AIADMK’s alliance with the saffron party cost it the votes of Christian and Muslim minorities and the DMK-led alliance benefited from this. The constituencies -- Chennai North, Chennai Central, Ramanathapuram, Thoothukkudi and Kanniyakumari -- have a significant number of minorities who form the vote bank. The BJP was also seen as being antithetical to Dravadian nationalism and this sentiment also harmed the AIADMK.

Further, a fraction of the AIADMK vote share was poached by the Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam (AMMK), led by TTV Dhinakaran.

The AIADMK won only in Theni constituency where Raveendranath Kumar, the son of deputy CM O Panneerselvam won against Congress veteran EVKS Elangovan. However, he was not given a seat in the Union cabinet.


The Long List of Failures Pointed out by DMK

Palaniswami has been extensively criticised for the fact that he was not elected by the people and so was not the public’s choice.

However, his government did survive a trust vote and a no-confidence motion against the speaker, amidst threats of shifting loyalties by a few MLAs.

The opposition party DMK chief MK Stalin has in many instances criticised the Palaniswami-led government for under-reporting the COVID-19 deaths in the state, lack of availability of adequate hospital beds and equipment during the pandemic, not able to successfully abolish the medical entrance exam NEET which has led to several suicides, for supporting the centre's agrarian bills which were allegedly pro-corporate, playing a role in the police firing in the anti-Sterlite protests in Thoothukudi which killed 13 people and injured many, to name a few.

Many have also criticised him for joining hands with the BJP, whom the late chief minister Jayalalithaa had clearly stood up against.

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