Having been convicted in the disproportionate assets case and amid her ongoing power tussle with O Pannerselvam, VK Sasikala handed over the baton of the leader of AIADMK legislature party to Edappadi K Palaniswami. With Sasikala now behind bars, for the next three and a half year, Edappadi K Palaniswami has been called by the Governor and will take oath as the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister on Thursday.
But who is Edappadi K Palaniswami?
The 63-year-old loyalist of late AIADMK chief J Jayalalithaa was elected as the leader of the legislature party on February 14. Not just Jayalalithaa, he is believed to be an unwavering loyalist of Sasikala too.
A Science graduate, Palaniswami was born into an agriculture family. Belonging to a humble family in Nedungulam village in Salem district, Palaniswami began his political career in 1974 as a party worker with the AIADMK. He scaled heights and went on to become a local level party secretary for Siluvampalayam in Edappadi Panchayat Union in Salem.
In 1987 after party founder MG Ramachandran’s death, the AIADMK split into two factions – one led by Jayalalithaa and the other by MGR’s wife Janaki. It was then that Palaniswami had sworn his allegiance to Jayalalithaa. It is said that even before MGR’s death, he had put up a separate party flag mast “honouring” Jayalalithaa across Edappadi.
He was elevated as Salem North District joint secretary in 1990 after Jayalalithaa took charge of the AIADMK in 1990. Though he won from Edappadi constituency in 1989, 1991, 2011 and 2016 Assembly polls, he lost the seat in 1996 when AIADMK was routed in Assembly polls. In 1998, he went to Lok Sabha by winning the Tiruchengode Lok Sabha seat.
Over the 40 years in the party, his clout in AIADMK saw a dramatic rise when it won 10 of 11 Assembly segments in Salem district in the 2016 polls.
A grass root leader, he was given charge of the key portfolio of Public Works, besides Highways and Minor Ports, which he had already been holding. Since 2011, he has been the Minister for Highways and Minor Ports. He is one of those leaders who worked in close proximity with Jayalalithaa.