Who is EK Palaniswami?

Who is EK Palaniswami?

Like most members of the AIADMK, Edapaddi Palaniswami has maintained a low-profile throughout his career. Here is what we know about him.

By Shruti Menon

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A day after VK Sasikala seemingly vowed to destroy her opponent O Panneerselvam (OPS) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), her prayers may well have been partially heard even as she resides in Bengaluru’s Parappana Agrahara prison. One chapter of the political crisis in Tamil Nadu has finally come to an end. Vidyasagar Rao, governor of Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu, has finally put an end to the drama by inviting Sasikala-appointed Edapaddi K Palaniswami (EPS) to form the government today. This has come as a major setback to the OPS camp.

Who is EK Palaniswami?

However, there could be an anti-climax to this drama. Though EPS was sworn in today, he still has the task of proving majority in the assembly through a vote of confidence. If he wins the floor test, which has to be conducted within 15 days, EPS can continue as Chief Minister (CM). In case of a loss due to party divide, OPS would have an opportunity of returning to the CM’s chair if he gets the numbers. If the party fails to decide on a leader, EPS could still continue as the CM for the next six months and prove that he has the numbers.

Who is Edapaddi K Palaniswami?

Born in 1954 into an agricultural family, EPS hails from Nedungulam village in Salem. He was a college dropout from Sri Vasavi College in Erode and joined the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam at a very young age. He became former J Jayalalithaa’s close confidante after he swore his allegiance to her when the party split following AIADMK-founder MG Ramachandran’s demise in 1987. Since then, he has been a trusted member of the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly (MLA) in Amma’s cabinet. 

EPS was a member of Amma’s Naalvar Ani (four-man army), who were in direct contact with Amma and Poes Garden. EPS has been elected as the MLA from Edapaddi district of Salem at least four times since 1989 and has consistently maintained a low-profile, shadowing Amma in his 40-year long career. In this, he’s much like OPS, who steadfastly remained in the shadows and was known for being reticent until his dramatic announcements of February 7. Even after Amma’s death in December 2016, EPS has maintained his loyalties to Poes Garden (read: Chinnamma). He backed Chinnamma in the wake of OPS’ announcement at Marina Beach by gathering MLAs to support her and rooted for her to take over as the CM. 

Before his elevation as the legislature party leader and now CM, EPS served as the Minister for Public Works, Highways and Minor Ports, a portfolio he retained in 2016 from the previous legislature. He was chosen as the CM at an emergency meeting called by Chinnamma after her conviction on February 14. According to reports, he was next in line after OPS for the post after Amma’s demise.

He has a stronghold in Salem’s Gounder community, which is a major party vote bank after the Thevar community (to which Chinnamma and OPS belong). His clout in the district and the party grew after he won 10 of the 11 seats from Salem district in 2016 assembly elections. 

However, contrary to the polite demeanour of OPS, EPS is known to be short-tempered and not particularly subservient. The Indian Express quoted a senior AIADMK leader as saying “He is not an informed politician like many others in AIADMK. He is also known for his authoritarian nature like Jayalalithaa in the party. He is a rough-and-tumble politician.”

EPS may be Chinnamma’s choice while she serves her prison term, but the question now is how much confidence he inspires among his party? Will EPS will be Robin to Sasikala’s Batman?