After a dramatic revolt by O Panneerselvam against party chief V K Sasikala, Edappadi K Palanisamy successfully emerged as her Man Friday, easing out other contenders in the AIADMK for the Chief Minister’s post.
A grass-roots level leader, 63-year-old Palanisamy’s growth in the party in a career spanning over 40 years has been steady.
Immediately after the Supreme Court pronounced its verdict convicting V K Sasikala in the Disproportionate Assets case on February 14, several names were considered by her before a formal meeting was convened to elect the Legislature Party Leader.
Among the strong contenders for the post was K A Sengottaiyan, the strongman from the Western belt who was appointed to the key post of party presidium chairman after veteran E Madusudanan switched over to the Panneerselvam camp.
Finally, Sasikala zeroed in on Palanisamy though he was technically only third in hierarchy in the Panneerselvam Cabinet after Forest Minister, Dindigul C Srinivasan.
During the 2011-16 Jayalalithaa’s Cabinet too, Edappadi came only after Panneerselvam, Natham R Viswanathan and R Vaithilingam in the hierarchy, though he was still part of the key ministers of the Jayalalithaa Cabinet.
Palanisamy’s first crucial jump came after the May 2016 Assembly election when the late Jayalalithaa handed him the important Public Works besides Highways and Minor Ports that he had held even before.
One important factor that weighed in Palanisamy’s favour was the unflinching loyalty he exhibited to Sasikala after Panneerselvam rose in revolt.
Sengottaiyan, who had steered clear of initial rumours that he was not inclined towards Sasikala’s leadership after Jayalalithaa’s demise, could not eventually emerge a winner.
Palanisamy was a die hard loyalist of Jayalalithaa and chose to side with Sasikala after Amma’s death.
A native of Nedungulam village in Salem district, and a farmer, Palanisamy began his political career in AIADMK in 1974 as a 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.