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Edappadi Palaniswami: From farmer to Tamil Nadu CM, the AIADMK leader climbs party ladder steadily

A grass-roots level leader, K Palaniswami's growth in the party in a career spanning over 40 years had been steady. However, his clout in the AIADMK saw a dramatic rise in the 2016 assembly elections.

March 29, 2021 / 07:04 PM IST
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami (File image)

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami (File image)

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) top leader Edappadi K Palaniswami recently hit back at Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) leader A Raja for the latter's alleged disparaging remarks against him.

“I am a farmer. Farmers work hard. We buy things with what we have,” said Palaniswami, adding that his worth has increased with the identity of ‘farmer’ that he has.

In an election meeting, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) leader A Raja had said, “Till recently, Edappadi Palaniswami was working in a jaggery mandi. How is it fair to say that he is an equal competition to Stalin? The price of our leader Stalin’s slipper is greater by a rupee when compared with your value.”

In reply to the comment, Palaniswami said, “You will buy slippers and more with the money you stole.”

In his early life, Palaniswami was said to be a Jaggery trader and was monikered as 'Jaggery Palaniswami'. He began his political career in AIADMK in 1974 and had a dramatic rise in the party ranks over the years. Known as a J Jayalalithaa and VK Sasikala loyalist, Palaniswami has come a long way from an ordinary party member to the leader of the AIADMK legislature party, and then the chief minister of Tamil Nadu.

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Also read | Local vs outsiders, NEET, CAA, COVID-19 handling: Key issues in Tamil Nadu elections

Background

Born on May 12, 1954, into an agricultural family, Palaniswami is a native of Nedungulam village of Edappadi taluk in Salem district. He comes from the politically powerful Gounder community in the Kongu belt. After completing school, he enrolled for B.Sc but could not graduate.

Political journey

Palaniswami began his political career in the AIADMK in 1974 as an ordinary party member. He climbed the party ladder steadily and caught Jayalalithaa's attention as early as in 1985 when he had put up a separate party flag mast across Edappadi region 'honouring" Puratchi Thalaivi Amma. He remained with Jayalalithaa when the party split after the death of MG Ramachandran, her mentor and party founder.

In the 1989 state elections, Jayalalithaa rewarded Palaniswami for his loyalty by nominating him as the AIADMK candidate in the Edappadi constituency and he won the seat and retained it in 1991. Though Palaniswami got defeated in the 1996 assembly, 2004 Lok Sabha and 2006 assembly election, he continued to be a trusted party leader.

He again got a ticket in the 2011 assembly elections in the Edappadi constituency. He won the seat this time and retained it in the 2016 state polls.

In addition, he won the Lok Sabha seat from Tiruchengode in 1998.

Also read | Stalin vs EPS: Tamil Nadu’s ‘presidential’ elections

Tamil Nadu Assembly election 2016

A grass-roots level leader, Palaniswami's growth in the party in a career spanning over 40 years had been steady. However, his clout in the AIADMK saw a dramatic rise in the 2016 assembly elections. The Gounder community was a significant factor in the polls. Jayalalithaa was facing anti-incumbency and it was the solid support of western Tamil Nadu with the Gounder community base that brought the results in her favour. In Palaniswami’s Salem district, the party won in 10 of 11 assembly segments.

After Jayalalithaa’s death in January 2017, when the party was gripped with a political crisis, Palaniswami was handpicked by VK Sasikala to be Tamil Nadu's chief minister.

Also read | Tamil Nadu Election: DMK won’t have it easy as AIADMK won’t give up without a fight

Tamil Nadu Assembly election 2021

Palaniswami has filed nomination from his native Edappadi for the April 6 Tamil Nadu assembly elections, seeking a hat-trick of wins. He has been declared the chief ministerial candidate of the AIADMK-led alliance.

After filing the nomination, the 67-year-old leader recalled late chief minister J Jayalalithaa giving him the 'opportunity' to work for the constituency from 1989 and said he has served the local people as MLA, minister and later as the Chief Minister.

Corruption charges

Ahead of the upcoming state election, DMK has once again took up the corruption allegation against Palaniswami.

In a March 28 rally, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, whose party is contesting in Tamil Nadu in alliance with the DMK, lashed out at Palaniswami alleging he is trapped due to graft and he bowed in front of Union Home Minister Amit Shah as he had indulged in corruption. "Ironically, because of the money he has stolen from the people of Tamil Nadu, he is now trapped," the Congress MP said.

Palaniswami has time and again rejected the allegations as false and baseless.

Elections in Tamil Nadu will be held in a single phase on April 6. Results will be declared on May 2 along with the three other poll-bound states – Assam, Kerala, and West Bengal -- and the union territory of Puducherry.

This will be the first election in decades without the presence of late leaders Jayalalithaa and Kalaignar Karunanidhi in the election fray.
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