Has Tamil Nadu CM O Paneerselvam Become MODI-fied?

Just 20 days into the office of the Tamil Nadu chief minister, O Panneerselvam(OPS) is a changed man. So much so that he is now changing the power matrix in the ruling dispensation.

He may have a photograph of Jayalalithaa on his table, but he is no longer the OPS who sought orders from Poes Garden as he did while serving as a caretaker CM under Jayalalithaa’s overbearing guidance in the past.

The change, say some officials, was pronounced after his Delhi visit to call on Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday. He did not take Lok Sabha deputy speaker M Thambidurai along with him for the appointment with the PM. After calling on the PM, OPS seems to have chosen to follow Modi’s style of functioning too – asserting his position as the chief political executive of the state, not leaving any room for extra-constitutional authorities — read V K Sasikala and her extended family members — to wield influence on his administration.

His moving away from Sasikala was evident even in the media interaction at Delhi and it was conspicuous that he did not refer to any guidance that he receives from ‘Chinnamma’, something that is so common about AIADMK leaders, reflecting their servile attitude towards their leaders.

On his return from Delhi, OPS gave a dressing down to some state ministers, saying the government’s image was pathetic in Delhi and that he would not tolerate any lassitude from his cabinet colleagues. “He told a minister not to give excuses for not attending office,” said a source.

He made it clear to a few top bureaucrats that they should take orders only from him. The inference is clear: do not report to Sasikala or her relatives, who have been nurturing hopes of remote controlling the CM and the government.

OPS is reluctant to visit the Poes Garden. Taking a cue, over the last few days, the rush of bureaucrats to Poes Garden and M Natarajan’s house has reduced. “Earlier, many IPS and IAS officials were virtually camping in these places, lobbying for lucrative posts,” said a party source.

As he was put in charge of the chief minister’s portfolios when Jayalalithaa was alive, OPS wants to project himself as “Amma’s choice” to run the administration.