A meeting of MLAs of the AIADMK held at Apollo Hospital in Chennai has endorsed the name of O Panneerselvam as the man who will take reins of the government, if the requirement arises.
Sources have told TNM that MLAs were made to sign on a paper pledging their support to O Panneerselvam.
Since Apollo Hospital announced on Sunday evening that Jayalalithaa had suffered a cardiac arrest, the top leadership of the AIADMK have been in a huddle over the future course of the party.
Tamil Nadu CM Jayalalithaa’s condition is critical. She has been admitted to Apollo Hospital in Chennai since September 22, following complaints of dehydration and fever. Her situation worsened on Sunday when she suffered a cardiac arrest.
O Panneerselvam’s selection is not entirely expected as the man once known to be close to Jayalalithaa and viewed as her second-in-command, recently lost some of his clout. He is however, known to be close to Jayalalithaa’s confidante Sasikala. He was made the chief minister in 2001 for a few months and later for a few months in 2014, following court decisions adverse to Jayalalithaa.
A reluctant chief minister, OPS even refused to occupy the CM’s seat in 2001, and would instead only sit on a chair next to the CM’s seat. In 2014, he sobbed as he took oath as chief minister for the second time, after Jayalalithaa was convicted of corruption charges.
Made the opposition leader after the AIADMK lost in 2006, Panneerselvam found himself in the limelight during his tenure as Finance Minister after he publicly prostrated before Jayalalithaa just before presenting the annual budget.
O Panneerselvam, born into the Maravar caste, a sub-caste of Thevars, had a humble beginning. In the late 1980s, he started PV canteen, a small shop tea shop in his native Theni district. OPS who was an MGR loyalist in the 80s, later worked closely with Janaki, MGR’s widow who had taken charge of the party after MGR’s death in 1987.
His election strategies helped Sasikala’s nephew TTV Dhinakaran win an assembly seat in 1999, thereby bringing O Paneerselvam closer to Jayalalithaa. He soon grew in the ranks, and has been a cabinet minister in every government headed by Jayalalithaa since 2001.