By Lakshmi Subramanian
In a major reshuffle of portfolios of his cabinet, Tamil Nadu Chief minister MK Stalin on Thursday moved Palanivel Thiaga Rajan (PTR) out of the Finance portfolio and allocated it to senior leader Thangam Thennarasu. The industries portfolio held by Thennarasu has been allocated to Mannargudi MLA TRB Raaja, who has been newly inducted into the cabinet.
An official press release from the Raj Bhavan said that, on the recommendation of the chief minister, Governor RN Ravi has additionally allocated Tamil Development portfolio, held by Thennarasu to Information and Publicity minister MP Swaminathan.
Mano Thangaraj who was the Information Technology minister has been allocated Milk and Dairy Development which was held by SM Nasar who has been dropped from the cabinet. PTR will now be the new minister for Information and Technology.
This is the third time Stalin’s cabinet has been reshuffled. The first time was when portfolios held by ministers Raja Kannappan and SS Shivashankar were swapped. The second time was when DMK youth wing leader Udhayanidhi Stalin was inducted into the cabinet as the sports minister. But this is the first time a minister is being dropped and a new person inducted.
In the two years since the DMK took over, Industries has been the best performing department, bringing in foreign direct investments. Raaja, son of former union minister and DMK senior leader TR Baalu, is also a member of the state planning commission and heads the DMK IT wing. Sources say that Raaja might be moved out of the two posts very soon as he has to handle the industries department like his predecessor Thennarasu.
However, Raaja is a young face and there has been much discontent within the party over his handling of the IT wing. The DMK IT wing which was earlier headed by PTR was given to Raaja after the latter took over as the finance minister then.
On the other hand, moving PTR out of finance is being looked at as an admission of guilt. Two of his purported audio clips alleging that the DMK first-family earned Rs 30,000 crores, released by a blogger and then by Tamil Nadu BJP Chief K Annamalai, had gone viral. A banker-turned-politician, PTR was one of the most efficient ministers in Stalin’s cabinet. After being shifted from finance to IT, PTR tweeted that the last two years were the “most fulfilling” in his life and that he looked forward to re-establishing Tamil Nadu as a leading state in IT.
In a series of tweets, he said: “I hope my own experience in establishing and managing a pioneering Global Capability Centre 15 years ago, and the connectivity with the IT and ITES Industry gained during my professional career, will enrich my efforts in the new role.”
Sources say that PTR has been entrusted with the new role at a time when the state government is pitching big to expand its base in the information technology sector. Meanwhile party sources say that PTR’s handling of party affairs in Madurai and locking horns with his colleague P. Moorthy, minister of commercial taxes, is also one of the reasons for him being moved out of finance. It is also said that most of the ministers had expressed discontent against PTR over the allocation of funds to various departments.
Meanwhile Thennarasu, soft-spoken and articulate, is now the most trusted man in both the government and within the party. Thennarasu who was once the school education minister in M. Karunanidhi’s cabinet, is a second-generation politician and a four-time MLA from the Thiruchuli constituency. While his industries portfolio has been allotted to Raaja, the Tamil development department has been given to information minister M.P. Swaminathan.
Thennarasu has retained the archaeology department. Of course, Keezhadi excavation and archaeology have been one of the most loved subjects of Stalin himself.
Highly placed sources in the DMK say that Stalin had decided to go for a major cabinet reshuffle and bring major changes in the bureaucracy, when the Assembly was in session, but did not have an idea of shuffling the finance or industries departments. Sources confirm that he wanted to move out a few under-performing ministers and induct new and young faces. But PTR’s controversial audio tapes ensured it is only a rejig with the existing ministers and dropping just Nasar from the cabinet.
However the reshuffle, too, does not ensure that the DMK government under Stalin will deliver as expected as most departments are under-performing due to bureaucracy domination.