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Feb 14, 2017 07:24 PM IST | Source: NEWS18.com

Who is E Palaniswami and why is he Sasikala’s choice for CM?

When Jayalalithaa was seriously ill at the Apollo Hospital he was tipped to take over her portfolios. How OPS got the nod ahead of him was never clear.

From an unassuming highways minister to chief ministerial elect has been a stratospheric elevation for Sasikala loyalist Edappadi K Palaniswami - though it is anybody's guess how long his glory will last.

Just an hour after VK Sasikala was pronounced guilty by the Supreme Court in the 1996 Disproportionate Assets Case, the MLAs who belonged to her camp elected Palaniswami as the legislature party leader to keep rival O Panneerselvam at bay. This happened at the Golden Bay Resort outside Chennai, where Sasikala was camping with around 130 AIADMK MLAs.

So, who is Palaniswami and why was he picked by Sasikala for the top slot?

For starters, Palaniswami has always been a regular at Poes Garden, favoured by both Amma and Chinnamma.

When Jayalalithaa was seriously ill at the Apollo Hospital he was tipped to take over her portfolios, including police. How OPS got the nod ahead of him was never clear.

Throughout the drama following Panneerselvam's rebellion, Palaniswami unflinchingly backed Sasikala, attacking OPS and gathering AIADMK MLAs around to support her. Before the MLAs were shepherded to Golden Bay resort in Mahabalipuram on the outskirts of Chennai, they were reportedly first taken to Palaniswami's house.

Palaniswami is no pushover politically either. He is a three-time MLA from Edappadi in the Kongu region which elected candidates from 45 out of 57 seats - a crucial contribution in Jayalalithaa's reduced majority in 2015. He is a Gounder, a dominant backward caste which forms the backbone of the AIADMK along with the Thevar community to which Sasikala belongs. That is a clever political balancing act.

A few hours after the Supreme Court verdict, Panneerselvam and co were reportedly set to leave for Golden Bay to free the "captive" MLAs while the Sasikala camp were digging trenches to fight it out legally and politically. How the politics plays out later in the day will determine how long Palaniswami remains in the limelight.

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