Jayalalithaa’s Work Allocated To Panneerselvam

  • Governor makes interim arrangement

Chennai: Tamil Nadu Finance Minister O Panneerselam was asked by Governor Ch Vidyasagar Rao to preside over the cabinet meetings till Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa returns from Apollo Hospital. He was entrusted with the additional responsibility of handling the eight portfolios that were with Jayalalithaa till she was admitted in the hospital. A statement released by Raj Bhavan here on Tuesday said Governor Vidyasagar Rao has made an interim arrangement as suggested by Jayalalithaa who is being treated for lung congestion at the hospital.

In essence, Governor Vidayasagar Rao has followed the time-tested procedure adopted by Governor Khurana in 1984 when the then Chief Minister MG Ramachandran was in the same condition as the present incumbent. At that time, MGR was at Brooklyn hospital in New York for three months. He lost his voice although he miraculously recovered from the kidney problem. In those difficult times, Khurana had appointed a five-minister committee under the leadership of senior minister Nedunchezhian who was asked to preside over the cabinet meetings. The Indian Constitution is silent on the arrangement to be made in this kind of situation. The makers of the constitution had not foreseen this predicament. Observers argue that an amendment to the constitution is needed clarifying the role the Governor has to play and the duty of the cabinet. A vacuum is created when a chief minister is out of action since the Governor has to go by the advice of the CM. This problem has to be addressed by the Parliament. Khurana went by his understanding of the situation and the advice given by the Congress government which was friendly towards MGR.

Panneerselvam is the only minister who officiated for Jayalalithaa when she was barred by courts on two occasion from holding office. In 2001-02 and in 2014-15 when Jayalithaa was indicted by a courts it was O Panneerselvam who was made acting chief minister. He ruled the State both the times without sitting in the chair where Amma used to sit. He did not even use the room which Jayalalithaa used to occupy. He had a humble chair for himsel in a different room leaving Amma’s chair vacant till she returned. While taking oath as interim chief minister Pannerselvam shed tears.  That was the kind of loyalty he exhibited towards his leader. However, after he took over the reins in 2014 for the second time, he went home and reportedly celebrated the occasion in a small way. It was promptly reported to Jayalalithaa and she was understood to have been unhappy with him. Jayalalithaa’s close associate Sasikala is also not in favour of giving additional responsibility to Panneerselvam, it is said.

Jayalalithaa, 68-year old, was admitted in Apollo Hospital on September 22. Initially the spokesmen of the ruling party, AIADMK, said Amma was being treated for fever and dehydration. As days passed by, the doctors at the Apollo Hospital appear to have recognized that there is a bigger problem and a specialist from UK was flown in. He visited Chennai for the second time recently to guide the team of doctors at Apollo. A three-doctor team had come from Delhi’s AIIMS hospital to assist the team. The doctors have been informing the people, through hospital bulletins, that the chief minister has been responding to the treatment but she has to remain in hospital for a prolonged period of time. The opposition DMK has been demanding that an interim chief minister be appointed to ensure able governance in the State. The DMK pointed out that it is a very crucial time for the State since the Cauvery Water dispute is being mediated by the Supreme Court and a strong representation from Tamil Nadu is needed.

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