Santha Sheela Nair, another Indian Administrative Service officer was relieved as officer on special duty to chief minister of Tamil Nadu. She is the fifth IAS officer to have been shunted by the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam government. Some resigned, others moved and yet others were forced out to other departments. In a calculated move of sorts, bureaucrats who functioned in close quarters to Jayalalithaa have been distanced from the chief minister's office even before AIADMK general secretary Sasikala Natarajan takes office.
If you looked at it as a move to clear off those who were close to Jayalalithaa, think again. Political analysts in Tamil Nadu believe that the clean up at the secretariat has got more to do with Prime Minister Narendra Modi than Jayalalithaa. Take for example IAS officer Sheela Balakrishnan. Those that are familiar with Tamil Nadu politics will vouch that Balakrishnan was the 'eyes and ears' of Jayalalithaa. It was the able IAS officer who took charge of administration when Jayalalithaa was hospitalised owing to ill health but within two months of her death, Balakrishnan was 'relieved' of her duties.
"These IAS officers had become the Centre's point of contact and Sasikala did not like it one bit. They had shifted their loyalties to the central BJP leadership after Jayalalithaa's death and had become the BJP's eyes and ears in Tamil Nadu. The new leadership of AIADMK clearly did not want people who would work for Modi in the secretariat and the clean-up happened quickly even before Sasikala could become the chief minister," said Ramasubramanian, a political analyst.
Balakrishnan, Ramamohan Rao, Venkatraman, Ramalingam and now Nair, all favourites of Jayalalithaa, are no longer trustworthy to the AIADMK. "The clean-up is a means to plug the holes through which information may leak. Sasikala wants people she can trust to keep a secret, if need be, from the centre. The situation is ripe for the BJP to establish their supremacy in the state and with officials who are cosying up to the leadership, Sasikala will not be able to stop the inevitable," he added.
These IAS officers had a major role to play in building the bridge between the state and the Centre during the Jallikattu fiasco facilitating umpteen number of meetings. The proximity between Panneerselvam and the Central government, observers say, was not appreciated by many in support of Sasikala in the party.
What delayed the swear-in ceremony
On Sunday Sasikala was elected as the leader of the AIADMK's legislative party and Panneerselvam resigned from the post of the chief minister. On Monday, Tamil Nadu Governor Vidhyasagar Rao accepted Panneerselvam's resignation but asked him and his council of ministers to continue functions. The party expected the governor to administer the oath of office to Sasikala on Tuesday, but in a sudden change of events, the governor cancelled all his plans in Tamil Nadu for no apparent reason.
Rao skipped his visit to Tamil Nadu and kept the AIADMK hanging despite accepting Panneerselvam's resignation less than 24 hours earlier. Questions are now being raised on what transpired between the time of him accepting the resignation to changing his mind on visiting Tamil Nadu. The in-charge governor chose to stay back in Mumbai, even giving 'Coimbatore University's convocation ceremony a miss.
He has given no explanation for his absence and has not pre-scheduled program in Mumbai that stops him from visiting Chennai and administering the oath of office to Sasikala. This has fuelled more speculations of the governor being influenced by the Centre in delaying the swearing-in ceremony. A decorated auditorium in Madras University awaits a ceremony that has been indefinitely postponed.
Are MLAs putting their right ahead of people's choice?
Choosing a legislative party leader is the choice of elected representatives. The AIADMK legislators have chosen Sasikala as their leader in full legitimate right. While the argument is sound technically, morality sparks off a different debate. Are legislators in Tamil Nadu violating the choice of its voters in electing Sasikala to become the chief minister?
The public anger against Sasikala is palpable. Apart from social media campaigns against her taking over, online petitions have been created, artists making their dissent known through their work and the common man is voicing his dissent loud and clear. Despite the public outrage, AIADMK is all set to allow Sasikala to take over as the CM. While one can't stop her from becoming the CM since she has been elected by the MLAs, her claim for the job is being questioned.
Sasikala has never fought an election, she has never addressed a public gathering or rallies. She spoke to party cadres for the first time the day she took charge as the general secretary of the AIADMK and later when she was chosen as the legislative party leader.
"People of Tamil Nadu did not vote for anyone from Jayalalithaa's household," DMK's Stalin had said taking potshots at Sasikala Natarajan. He claimed that people voted for the party led by Jayalalithaa and one can not simply claim her position. Jayalalithaa's niece Deepa Jayakumar likened Sasikala's elevation to a 'military coup'. Deepa has been hailed as the next Jayalalithaa by her supporters but observers believe that the support Deepa enjoys is half due to the anger against Sasikala.
While the AIADMK is more than happy with Sasikala leading the party as well as the government, can the same be said for the people of Tamil Nadu who voted Jayalalithaa to power?