Chennai, May 22: Minutes after Jayalalithaa was unanimously elected AIADMK legislature party leader, her trusted lieutenant O Panneerselvam announced his resignation as chief minister, ending his nearly eight-month-long stint.
"I have resigned as Chief Minister," he told party MLAs at the meeting convened to elect Jayalalithaa as the legislature party leader, paving her way to return at the helm.
Panneerselvam was sworn-in as chief minister on September 29 last year, two days after Jayalalithaa was unseated from the post when the trial court in Karnataka convicted her in a graft case. [TN Governor invited Jayalalithaa to form government at the earliest]
She was automatically disqualified from being a member of the Assembly and contesting elections for 10 years from that time.
Panneerselvam returned to the post for a second time last year after he was chosen by Jayalalithaa to be the chief minister almost under similar circumstances in 2001 when she was forced to resign over her conviction in the TANSI case. [Jayalalithaa elected as AIADMK legislature party leader]
He resigned six months later in 2002, when she was acquitted by the apex court. 63-year-old Panneerselvam belongs to the dominant Mudukulathor community and has risen from humble origins, having run a tea stall at his home town Periyakulam which is still being run by his family.
A first-time Minister in 2001 after his election to the assembly, he was vested with key Revenue department by Jayalalithaa, indicating her confidence in him.
In 2011, in a further endorsement of her trust, Jayalalithaa allocated the major departments of Finance and PWD to Panneerselvam.
Contrary to the sombre swearing-in ceremony that was witnessed last year when he took oath, Panneeerselvam and AIADMK MLAs were today seen in a buoyant mood on Jayalalithaa's imminent take over as chief minister.