New Tamil Nadu Chief Minister gets vote of confidence

Tamil Nadu's new Chief Minister, Mr Edappadi K. Palaniswami, secured a vote of confidence in the state assembly yesterday - but not before chaos reigned, as legislators scuffled in the chamber.

Capping two weeks of high drama - from a revolt within the ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) to a chief minister aspirant going to jail - Mr Palaniswami emerged with a majority of votes in the assembly to continue as chief minister.

After he was sworn in on Thursday, the Tamil Nadu governor gave him 15 days to prove that he had a majority in the state assembly.

Yesterday, the 62-year-old farmer, who is loyal to jailed politician V.K. Sasikala, received the support of 122 legislators in the 234-member assembly - more than the 117 votes needed. Eleven AIADMK legislators voted against him.

The lead-up to the vote of confidence was not itself without drama.

When an opposition request for a secret ballot was denied, legislators from the opposition Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) began chanting slogans and tearing up paper. The assembly Speaker, Mr P. Dhanapal, was manhandled and his shirt torn in the ensuing struggle.

The Speaker eventually had the rowdy DMK legislators evicted, including their chief, Mr M.K. Stalin, who was forcibly removed by marshals. Mr Stalin later stood outside the assembly, his shirt torn, and maintained that he too had been manhandled.

Tamil Nadu, a car manufacturing hub favoured by foreign investors owing to its reputation as a stable and well-administered state, was thrown into political turmoil following the death of popular politician J. Jayalalithaa, 68, in early December.

Her closest aide of more than 30 years, Ms Sasikala, 61, stepped in and took control of the party, but was challenged by caretaker chief minister O.P. Panneerselvam.

Ms Sasikala's chief ministerial bid ended when she was convicted of graft by the Supreme Court last week and sentenced to jail.

But she managed to install Mr Palaniswami, a loyalist, as the new chief minister, and put family members in important party positions.

Political analysts said the challenge now would be for Mr Palaniswami to mollify opponents and prove himself an able administrator.

"Tamil Nadu is known as one of India's best-administered states. His challenge will be to ensure its reputation remains (intact) and to keep the party united," said Dr N. Bhaskara Rao of the Delhi-based Centre for Media Studies.

The new chief minister already appears to have his hands full.

Mr S. Semmalai, a rebel AIADMK legislator, told reporters: "The battle is over but the war has just begun."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on February 19, 2017, with the headline 'New Tamil Nadu Chief Minister gets vote of confidence'. Print Edition | Subscribe