Chennai | AIADMK supremo Jayalalithaa today returned as Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu for the fifth time, some eight months after she was forced to quit over corruption charges, amidst celebrations by party supporters who hailed her return at the helm of affairs.
At a glittering ceremony, the 67-year-old leader was administered the oath of office and secrecy by Governor K Rosaiah with the party faithful raising slogans in her favour. Twenty eight ministers were also sworn in. Her return to power comes as a shot in the arm for the AIADMK ahead of Assembly elections next year.
Shouts of ‘Puratchi Thalaivi Vazhga’ (Long live the revolutionary leader) echoed across the Madras University centenary auditorium as Jayalalithaa took the oath in the name of God in Tamil. Attired in an embroidered green saree, Jayalalithaa entered the hall in the midst of frenzied slogan shouting by supporters who had converged early in the morning to catch a glimpse of their ‘Amma’.
Jayalalithaa was disqualified following her conviction in the Rs 66.66 crore disproportionate assets case by a trial court in Bengaluru on September 27. The Karnataka High Court had subsequently acquitted her of the charges on May 11. The ceremony was witnessed by a galaxy of dignitaries including superstar Rajinikanth, actor Sarathkumar, Union Minister Pon Radhakrishnan and AIADMK leader and Lok Sabha Deputy Speaker M Thambidurai.
Jayalalithaa retained almost the entire previous cabinet. Former Forest Minister MSM Anandan and ailing P Chenthur Pandian, who was a Minister without portfolio, were omitted while former minister, Agri Krishnamurthy, arrested in connection with the suicide of an official, was left out. Incidentally, Ministers were sworn-in in two batches of 14 each, making the formal event a short one.
They, including outgoing chief minister O Panneerselvam, were seen reverentially greeting their leader with folded hands after taking over. The swearing-in was also attended by actors Sivakumar and his son Karthi, industry captains like N Srinivasan of India Cements and some religious heads.
This time, the Ministers and other supporters were all smiles in stark contrast to that of the low-key swearing-in ceremony on September 29, when Panneerselvam became the stop-gap CM, two days after Jayalalithaa’s conviction. He had resigned yesterday after she was elected AIADMK Legislature Party Leader following her acquittal in the case.
On the occasion of Jayalalithaa’s return to power, party supporters from various parts of the state flooded Chennai, giving the police a tough time managing the surging crowds, especially in the vicinity of the swearing-in venue. Security kept a close vigil as the AIADMK supremo drove from her Poes Garden residence to traverse a seven km route to reach the venue.
Jammers and other gadgets were put to optimal use as Jayalalithaa is covered under ‘Z’ plus security status. Commandos and plainclothes men did the job of providing security cover and crowd management. AIADMK workers all over the state burst crackers, distributed sweets and organised playing of traditional music to celebrate the return of Jayalalithaa as Chief Minister.
Partymen in several towns and cities of the state were also seen distributing buttermilk, among other items, to people in public places, bus-stands and railway stations. On the political front, in the wake of Jayalalithaa’s return to power, a wary opposition may have to look at options of fighting next year’s polls with allies to challenge the now looking formidable AIADMK.
The AIADMK chief had in 2011 proved calculations of DMK’s likely return to power wrong when she led her party to a fantastic win by forming a rainbow coalition comprising DMDK and Left parties. The M Karunanidhi-led DMK could only muster 23 MLAs at the hustings. Since then the Jayalalithaa juggernaut has been rolling on unchallenged in Tamil Nadu.
AIADMK has not only won all bypolls and local body elections, but stamped its superiority in last year’s Lok Sabha polls as well. Jayalalithaa-steered AIADMK won 37 of the 39 Lok Sabha seats in the state, giving ample indications of her popularity amid a perceived Narendra Modi wave in Tamil Nadu. With the opposition not yet geared up, DMK chief Karunanidhi had indicated that only by cobbling an alliance could they confidently take on AIADMK in the 2016 assembly polls.
BJP is also keeping its options open as can been seen from its limited representation during Jayalalithaa’s swearing-in ceremony.