The eight ministers – K K S S R Ramachandran, S Muthusamy, R S Raja Kannappan, S Regupathy, E V Velu, Anitha Radhakrishnan, P K Sekar Babu and Senthil Balaji — have not just been inducted into the cabinet, they have been given powerful and prestigious posts as well, from revenue to electricity.
This exercise seems to be part of a larger scheme to attract other senior leaders of the AIADMK. By weaning away its second-rung leaders and giving them importance in the DMK, Stalin appears to be sending the message that AIADMK men who move to the DMK camp will be treated well and have a glorious future ahead of them.
While M Karunanidhi did give the early entrants from the AIADMK some posts, it is Stalin who is going out of the way to make them feel comfortable in the DMK. In the past few years, he had given them party posts. He has also struck the right balance between rewards to party loyalists and new entrants.
Now, that Stalin is CM, he is using the opportunity to confer more benefits on these leaders. Senthil Balaji is a classic example of an AIADMK man once sidelined and now honoured in the DMK. He had been active in the AIADMK since 1997 and grew up the ranks to be minister for transport in the J Jayalalithaa cabinet from 2011 to 2015. He was dropped from the cabinet in July 2015 and after the demise of Jayalalithaa, when the AIADMK underwent a split, he stood by T T V Dhinakaran.
Part of the group of 18 disqualified MLAs, Senthil Balaji joined the DMK on December 14, 2018. He was fielded by the DMK in the byelection to Aravakurichi constituency in 2019. In 2021, he was reelected to the state assembly from Karur constituency. He has been given important portfolios of electricity, prohibition and excise, indicating that he enjoys the goodwill of chief minister M K Stalin. Among the senior members of the new government’s cabinet is K K S S R Ramachandran. A member of the Karunanidhi cabinet 2006, his time he has the important portfolio of minister for revenue and disaster management. He was in MGR’s cabinet as well. Close to Jayalalithaa for supporting her after MGR’s death, he was also key in enabling the revival of the unified AIADMK in the 1990s. In the DMK, he is considered an important leader, especially in the southern districts.
E V Velu, who was on Janaki’s side during the AIADMK split, is now a senior DMK leader. He had served the Karunanidhi cabinet from 2006 to 2011 as minister for food and civil supplies. Velu, now minister for public works, is considered an important leader for the party in north Tamil Nadu.
With plans of boosting the DMK’s efforts in the western part of the state, the elevation of S Muthusamy appears crucial. The region is traditionally the DMK’s weak spot and using a former AIADMK man to shore up the DMK image in the gounder belt is a deft move. Muthusamy had been a part of the MGR and Jayalalithaa government.
The law minister S Regupathy was the labour minister in the AIADMK cabinet from 1992 to 93, and later the minister of urban development and housing till 1996. The prominent leader from Pudukkottai was made minister of state for home during the UPA rule at the Centre, and minister of state, environment and forests.
A popular face in Chennai, P K Sekar Babu, is another former AIADMK leader. The minister for Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments is expected to play a key role in further consolidation of the DMK in the Greater Chennai region.
Among the ministers who had an onand-off relationship with the AIADMK is R S Raja Kannappan, holding the transport portfolio. A powerful minister in the Jayalalithaa cabinet from 1991-96, Kannappan in 2000 formed the Makkal Tamil Desam party. Six years later, he merged it with the DMK. He rejoined the AIADMK in 2009, but 10 years later appealed to the people to vote for the DMKled alliance. He formally made the switch to the DMK in February 2020.
Anitha Radhakrishnan, who was expelled from the AIADMK in 2009 for anti-party activities He joined the DMK, and was suspended briefly when he greeted Jayalalithaa after her acquittal in the disproportionate assets case. In the 2021 assembly election, he was reelected from Tiruchendur constituency and has now been appointed as minister for fisheries. He is expected to play a crucial role in the expansion of the DMK network in the southern districts.
While Stalin has successfully launched a programme to woo the AIADMK leaders with the promise of opportunities both in the party and the government. It remains to be seen how many AIADMK men will swallow the bait