Edappadi Palaniswami: How the accidental CM has become a crafty politician
On August 7, two days before the AIADMK would lose the closely-contested Vellore Lok Sabha seat, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami sacked his cabinet colleague, Minister for Information Technology M Manikandan. While the minister was already undercut in July with the appointment of another minister, Udumalpet Radhakrishnan, as the chairman of an agency he oversees, this final step came as a surprise. While a first for the Chief Minister since taking office, it reminded political watchers in the state of the ways of late Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa, whose victory and demise in 2016, ultimately brought the CM’s chair to Palaniswami. Considered a unilateral decision-maker, Jayalalithaa was known to firing ministers, transferring bureaucrats and filing defamation cases on journalists whenever irked.
With the state having witnessed multiple upheavals in the last few years, the AIADMK government has been severely criticised for acting per the whims of the BJP government at the Centre, eroding the rights of the state. The policies of the state have also been questioned— whether it was the promised opposition to NEET, the shootings during the anti-Sterlite environmental agitation, among other issues. However, through it all, Palaniswami, popularly called EPS, has managed to survive among his powerful peers, even shedding the image of an awkward Chief Minister to now frequently picking squabbles with journalists and political adversaries. For a man whose ascent to the top job in the state was merely to become a puppet for the now incarcerated Sasikala Natarajan, is his survival due to circumstances, compromises or modelled on a diligent study of the late AIADMK supremo?