Chennai: After a dramatic revolt by O Panneerselvam against party chief VK Sasikala, Edappadi K Palaniswami 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 Palaniswamy'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 KA 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 Palaniswami 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.
Palaniswami'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 Palaniswami'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.
Palaniswami 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, Palaniswami 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.
A Science graduate, he swore allegiance to Jayalalithaa when AIADMK split into two factions, one led by her and the other by party founder M G Ramachandran's wife Janaki, after MGR's death in 1987.
In 1990, when Jayalalithaa unified AIADMK,he was elevated as Salem North District joint secretary.
In 1989, 1991, 2011 and 2016 Assembly polls, he won from Edappadi constituency. When AIADMK was routed in the 1996 Assembly polls, he too lost from Edapadi.
Similarly, he was defeated in the 2001, 2006 Assembly polls and the 1999 and 2004 parliamentary polls. In 1998, he went to Lok Sabha by winning the Tiruchengode Lok Sabha seat.
His clout in AIADMK saw a dramatic rise when it won 10 of 11 Assembly segments in Salem district in the 2016 polls.
Acknowledging his contributions, he was given the key portfolio of Public Works, besides Highways and Minor Ports, which he had already been holding.
Since 2011, he has been Minister for Highways and Minor Ports and was among senior ministers who had proximity to Jayalalithaa.
He has held various party posts, including propaganda secretary, organisation secretary, and disciplinary committee member. Currently, he is the party headquarters secretary and Salem Rural District party secretary.
Updated Date: Feb 16, 2017 18:21 PM