A fortnight back when Chief Minister Palaniswami left for the UK, he was just the ‘lucky first among the many equals’ in the AIADMK. On his return, the ‘accidental chief minister’ has become the ‘revolutionary leader’s heir’!
G Babu Jayakumar
The sight of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami wearing a matching waist-cost and trousers at a formal gathering of suited men during his just-concluded overseas tour was a little short of an eyesore. It’s not so much because we’re used to seeing him in a white shirt and mundu/dothi, but because he kept aside the oxfords and went with a psychedelic blue pair of sneakers! As much as he stood out in the UK, the USA and the UAE, he returned to Chennai and seamlessly merged with the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) cadre that gave him a hero’s welcome.
A fortnight back when he left for the UK, he was just the ‘lucky first among the many equals’ in the AIADMK. However, even as vignettes of his visit to various overseas establishments poured in, providing ample scope for trolls and meme-creators to mock at him, he seemingly struck a chord with his cadre and supporters. From an ‘accidental chief minister’ he became the ‘revolutionary leader’s heir’ on his return!
In the special 80-page edition of AIADMK’s newspaper ‘Namadhu Amma’, which was full of advertisements welcoming the chief minister back home, senior party leaders vied with one another to praise him and declare his pre-eminent position in the party. Even if Namadhu Amma is not a staple household newspaper, no one is Chennai could have missed the ubiquitous posters with his photo accompanied by the legend: ‘He went, saw, conquered!’
That the real conquest had happened back home was first evident from the grand reception he received at the airport in the wee hours of Tuesday. The throngs of flag-waving cadre at that untimely hour was reminiscent of the crowds that gathered to welcome past AIADMK chief ministers back home — be it J Jayalalithaa returning from a Bengaluru jail in 2014 or MGR coming home after medical treatment in the US in 1985.
An interesting fact here is that Palaniswami is the first Tamil Nadu Chief Minister in more than three decades to go overseas in search of investment — his predecessors have attracted foreign investment sitting in Chennai.
To all his naysayers Palaniswami’s reply is that he has attracted investment worth Rs 8,830 crore in this single visit! One of the main critics is Opposition leader and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) leader MK Stalin. Stalin has questioned the CM’s claim of 41 MoUs being signed and has put to the government a more pressing question: What is the fate of the 98 MoUs signed during the 2015 Global Investors Meet in Chennai and the 504 agreements signed during the 2019 meet?
As far as this visit is concerned, Palaniswami is unlikely to lose sleep over the fate of the MoUs signed or the volume of investment coming into Tamil Nadu, because he has already successfully pulled it off within the AIADMK.
In addition to the promised foreign investment, this visit has helped Palanisawmi the ‘survivor’ an image makeover. This makeover will help him not only fend off the threat Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam poses but also the possible threat he faces from VK Sasikala — the Jayalalithaa aide and former general secretary who is now in a Bengaluru jail serving a four year sentence in a disproportionate assets case.
The fear of Sasikala’s early release has been looming over many AIADMK leaders for quite some time now after rumours started doing the rounds. However, for now it seems that Palaniswami has warded off that threat and strengthened his position as the party leader.
Perhaps it is this confidence that has emboldened him to plan more foreign trips. Chief Minister Palaniswami is set to travel to Israel next and learn about its water management systems.G Babu Jayakumar is a Chennai-based senior journalist. Views are personal.The Great Diwali Discount!
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