Tamil Nadu Finance Minister O. Panneerselvam finds himself in an unenviable position once again. While he has been unofficially sidelined in the party with most of his supporters losing party posts in his native Theni district itself, Mr. Panneerselvam, called OPS in AIADMK circles, finds himself thrust into the task of shouldering the State’s governance for the third time.
This time, he will find it much more difficult as Chief Minister Jayalalithaa has been hospitalised since September 22 and is recuperating under respiratory support.In 2001, when for the first time he was introduced to the media as the new Chief Minister after Ms. Jayalalithaa’s appointment was quashed by the Supreme Court in view of her conviction in the TANSI cases, hardly any one knew him. Only a few months earlier, he was elected from the Periyakulam constituency.
He was the chairman of the Periyakulam Municipality in Theni district during 1996-2001 when he befriended the local MP T.T.V. Dinakaran, a relative of Ms. Jayalalithaa’s close aide Sasikala. While Mr. Dinakaran has since been sidelined, Mr. Panneerselvam has managed to rise.
“OPS was with the Janaki faction when the AIADMK split after MGR’s death. But one of his lawyer friends advised him to join the Jayalalithaa faction as he saw her as the future leader of the party. It was his friendship with Dinakaran that led to his meteoric rise,” recalls a friend of Mr. Panneerselvam in Periyakulam. He represents the Thevar community, considered the backbone of the AIADMK for two decades now.
Party cadre in Theni say that it was Mr. Dinakaran who got Mr. Panneerselvam the Revenue portfolio, usually reserved for party seniors, in 2001. After Ms. Jayalalithaa returned as Chief Minister next year, he became her most trusted loyalist and was rewarded with the powerful Public Works Department portfolio(THE HINDU,2016).