Tamil Nadu has a new Chief Minister!
Those of you who dip in occasionally to this blog will be wondering who come out on top of the rivetting political duel to succeed Jayalalithaa, the hugely successful actress-turned-politician who died two months ago.
Was it Sasikala, the live-in friend and confidante of Jayalalithaa, who believes she is the anointed one to lead party and state ... or OPS, the unassuming caretaker Chief Minister who decided that Jayalithaa's legacy would only be safe in his hands?
And the answer ... neither of the above.
Let me explain.
Two days ago, India's Supreme Court ruled in a case that's dragged on for years that Sasikala (and two other members of her family) had disproportionate assets ... in other words, they were on the take on a massive scale. Sasikala was sentenced to jail for four years, and is automatically disbarred from contesting elections for another six years after her release.
By extension, the Supreme Court ruling suggests that the late Jayalalithaa was also monumentally corrupt.
So - that was the end of Sasikala's attempt to take the state's top job (though not of her influence within Jayalalithaa's party). And yesterday, after stopping at her patron's grave where she beat the ground in an ancient Tamil ritual threatening vengeance, she complied with the court ruling. She's now behind bars in Bangalore, sleeping on the floor (we're told), eating lentil stew and making candles and incense as her prison labour.
The assumption was that with Sasikala out of the way, the party would regroup behind OPS. Not so! He has the support of only a small number of the ruling party's members of the legislative assembly. Poor guy, after his brave act of rebellion just last week - communing with the spirit of Jayalithaa at her graveside, with the TV cameras rolling - he seems relegated to the status of political sideshow.
Sasikala remains the party's general secretary - one of her last acts before giving herself up to be jailed was to name her nephew as deputy secretary general - and she also nominated another loyalist to take over from her as the leader of the party in the assembly.
And it is that gentleman, Edappadi K. Palaniswami - no, not many people had heard of him until the other day - who was this afternoon sworn in as the new Chief Minister. That's him on the left in the screen grab below. He now has fifteen days to demonstrate in what they call a 'floor' test - a vote in the state assembly - that he has the support of a majority of assembly members.
As for that battle royal within Jayalalithaa's old party, there are moves underway - it seems - to heal the rift. Who knows, we could soon be told it was all a big misunderstanding. Everyone was the best of friends all along. It was entirely the result of meddling by malign forces, namely ... Stalin (leader of the local opposition party), the BJP, the BBC, Pakistan, President Trump, Vladimir Putin, the news media, western bloggers, take your pick.
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