India Today - - NATION -

His years as a stal­wart of Jay­alalithaa’s naal­var ani (four-man army) have paid Edap­padi K. Palanisamy, 62, rich div­i­dends. He was also sec­ond in com­mand and PWD min­is­ter in the Pan­ner­sel­vam cab­i­net. Palanisamy is with Sasikala now and is her man for the chief min­is­ter’s post. No one from his Gounder com­mu­nity, also re­ferred to as the Kongu Vel­lalar Gounders, tra­di­tional landown­ers and farm­ers from the western dis­tricts, has ever held the top post since P. Sub­barayan who was chief min­is­ter of the erst­while Madras Pres­i­dency (1926-1936).

Palanisamy’s elec­toral de­but came in some­what sim­i­lar cir­cum­stances to what the AIADMK is fac­ing now, split into two fac­tions, one headed by party founder M.G. Ra­machan­dran’s wi­dow Janaki and the other by rebel J. Jay­alalithaa. He joined the Jay­alalithaa group and won the Edap­padi assem­bly seat in the 1989 polls. He has won three of the five assem­bly polls he con­tested and was also Lok Sabha MP from Tiruchen­gode in 1998. He’s also said to have vast fi­nan­cial re­sources with MLA K.A. Sen­got­taiyan, a strong­man from the western dis­tricts, serv­ing as a men­tor. Which maybe why he was cho­sen, as some­one who can stand up to the The­vars and even take on Pan­neer­sel­vam if it comes to the crunch.

The soft-spo­ken Palanisamy’s sway in the Gounder­dom­i­nated western dis­tricts was the most im­por­tant fac­tor that tilted the scales in favour of the AIADMK in the 2016 polls. The party won 45 of the 57 seats from here. In his home district, Salem, the party won 10 of the 11 seats.

While ral­ly­ing the MLAs from western Tamil Nadu may be his pri­mary task, Palanisamy will have many other chal­lenges: to en­sure there is no in­fight­ing in the Gounder group and also deal with the ex­tended Sasikala fam­ily. Like most other AIADMK lea­d­er­min­is­ters, he too comes with bag­gage. Cor­rup­tion charges, pub­li­cised or not, could prove to be a bur­den.

THE NOM­I­NEE Palanisamy talks to the me­dia in Chennai af­ter be­ing elected leg­is­la­ture party leader

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