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Tamil Nadu’s new Chief Minister, colleagues break down

O Panneerselvam took oath as the new Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu on Monday, two days after the AIADMK chief J Jayalalithaa stepped down from office following conviction in Rs. 66.65 crore disproportionate assets case. He also did not change any of the portfolios, keeping home, public and finance ministries with himself.

A staunch Jaya loyalist, Panneerselvam broke down while being administered oath by Governor Konijeti Rosaiah in the Raj Bhawan. Many of the ministers like Gokul Indra and Mukkur N Subramanian also got emotional during the swearing-in ceremony.

This is his second stint as the CM, the last one being in 2001. The 63-year-old leader from Thevar community served as the Finance Minister and PWD Minister in the Jayalalithaa Cabinet.

Jayalalithaa had taken everyone by surprise by handpicking him to fill her shoes in 2001 when she had to step down due to her conviction in TANSI land scam. Panneerselvam chose not to function from the chair on which his ‘revered’ leader sat while he performed the role of the nightwatchman.

He duly vacated the post after Jayalalithaa was acquitted in the case. But this time his selection was expected by many after she was sent to jail in a graft case as the stature of the leader, known for his unflinching devotion to Jayalalithaa, has grown in the party over the years.

It was in September 2001 that he was sworn-in as Chief Minister for the first time and it is in the same month in 2014, when the lady luck has smiled again on him. But he has a more challenging task at hand this time as the much-adored “Amma” Jayalalithaa stands disqualified as an MLA following her conviction and four-year imprisonment in the Rs 66.65 crore disproportionate wealth case by a Bangalore court on Saturday and faces and uncertain political future while the party has to prepare for assembly elections in 18 months.

Incidentally, Panneerselvam is the first man from the Thevar community to become the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu. Representing Bodinayakanur Assembly constituency in Theni District in the current assembly, Pannerselvam has risen from humble origins. His family still owns a tea stall he once ran.

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