Chennai, May 23: For the second time in his political career, AIADMK leader O. Panneerselvam was Tamil Nadu's stop gap chief minister till party's general secretary J. Jayalalithaa was acquitted in a corruption case. He now reverts to the No.2 slot in the Tamil Nadu government.
Last September Panneerselvam, 64, a staunch loyalist of Jayalalithaa took over as the chief minister after she was sentenced by a court in Bangalore to a four-year jail term and a Rs.100 crore fine in a disproportionate assets case.
Panneerselvam operated from his office in the finance ministry to show his "reverence" to his Jayalalithaa.
He also said that his government was functioning under Jayalalithaa's guidance.
But it was not a smooth ride for Panneerselvam as the opposition charged him with poor governance and agriculture minister `Agri' S.S. Krishnamoorthy lost his job over graft charges.
Even the welfare measures initiated by the Jayalalithaa government like opening of subsidised Amma Canteens and a Metro rail system, among others, got delayed giving ammunition to the opposition parties to fire their guns at the ruling party.
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The heir apparent of the main opposition DMK, M.K. Stalin, even wrote an open letter to Panneerselvam, saying: "Tamil Nadu is in the ICU and its vital signs are a cause for extreme concern."
The government also twice postponed the much-expected Global Investors Meet after holding roadshows overseas and spending around Rs.100 crore on it. Industry turned cautious about investing in the state because of the political drift.
The government seemed to have come to a standstill. The party and the ministers went into a prayer mode for their leader's acquittal.
Panneerselvam wrote several letters to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the issues impacting the state and the people. As he also held the finance portfolio, Panneerselvam also presented the budget for 2015-16.
Representing the Bodinayakanur constituency, Panneerselvam is a farmer from Theni district and is known as OPS in the party.
As a CM, Panneerselvam said his govt was functioning under Jaya's guidance
He entered politics in 1996. In 2001, he was elected to the assembly from Periakulam and became the public works department minister. Panneerselvam was the first person from the Thevar community to become the chief minister of Tamil Nadu in 2001.
He was also leader of opposition when AIADMK lost power in 2006. Panneerselvam had become chief minister in similar circumstances in 2001 for a brief period.
It was his proximity to then Lok Sabha member T.T.V. Dinakaran, a nephew of Jayalalithaa's confidante V.K. Sasikala, that sent his political fortunes soaring in the AIADMK.
Born in 1951 in Periayakulam in Theni, Panneerselvam tried his hand in farming after graduating but later ventured into politics. His first success came in 1996 when he was elected the chairman of the Periyakulam Municipality.
He maintains a low profile. Always sporting holy ash and vermilion on his forehead, Panneerselvam, a father of three, is seen as a rarity in politics.
"He is very approachable and soft spoken. He does not carry any airs despite being a senior minister in the government," a Tamil Nadu lawmaker from an opposition party had told IANS.
Panneerselvam's big break came when he was elected to the assembly in 2001 from Periakulam by a good margin and was made the revenue minister by Jayalalithaa.
In September 2001, he became the chief minister as a stopgap arrangement as Jayalalithaa was forced to step down following a legal tangle.
Panneerselvam was unfazed when he was criticised as a puppet chief minister. He was reluctant initially to sign official files as the chief minister. He refused to occupy the chief minister's chair.
In 2002, when Jayalalithaa became the chief minister again, he was made the minister for public works department. In 2006, he was re-elected from Periyakulam and was the leader of the opposition when the AIADMK lost the elections.
In 2011, contesting from Bodinayakanur, he won with an handsome margin and was elevated as the finance minister.
Panneerselvam is the fourth person from the AIADMK to become Tamil Nadu's chief minister - after founder leader M.G. Ramachandran or MGR, who died in 1987, his wife Janaki and Jayalalithaa.
The late V.R. Nedunchezhiyan was an acting chief minister for a brief period in the 1980s.