AIADMK rebel faction leader and three-time chief minister O Panneerselvam was on Monday sworn in as deputy chief minister of Tamil Nadu, as part of the merger deal cobbled up by the warring groups of the ruling party. He will also be the co-ordinator of the steering committee, which would oversee the day-to-day functions of the party. The ‘united’ party has also announced that it is initiating proceedings to remove party general secretary VK Sasikala from the post – one of the preconditions put forward by the OPS camp for the merger. In a tweet, Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated O Pannerselvam and others who took oath on Monday. “Centre assures all possible support to CM Edappadi K Palaniswami and Dy CM O Pannerselvam for the growth of the TN,” Modi said. Governor Ch Vidyasagar Rao administered the oath of office and secrecy to Panneerselvam. The former chief minister is back in his home turf of finance, a portfolio he had held since 2011 when the J Jayalalithaa government was sworn-in.
He held it till his resignation as chief minister in February to make way for jailed AIADMK chief Sasikala, who despite being appointed leader of the AIADMK legislature party could not become the chief minister following her conviction and subsequent imprisonment in the Bengaluru prison in a disproportionate assets case. Even when Panneerselvam stepped in for Jayalalithaa as a replacement following her conviction in the assets case in 2014 and even after her death in December 2016, he continued to hold the finance portfolio. His close aide K Pandiarajan was sworn-in as minister for Tamil official language and culture.
AIADMK factions led by chief minister K Palaniswami and Panneerselvam came together after a bitter split about six months ago. Both shook hands signifying the formal merger of the factions at the party headquarters here. Announcing the merger at the party headquarters, Palaniswami said Paneerselvam will be AIADMK’s coordinator while he will be the joint coordinator. “The burden in my heart is gone,” Panneerselvam said, adding “none can separate us, we are children of Amma and we are brothers.” He said the merger was not only the desire of Tamil Nadu people, but also of the 1.5-crore AIADMK cadres.