In a surprise move, the Edappadi K. Palaniswami government in Tamil Nadu on Wednesday dropped Information Technology Minister Dr M. Manikandan from the cabinet. Manikandan was dropped following his critical comments on government’s decision to reduce the cable TV charges.
In a recent interview, after taking part in the fifth national textile day celebrations at Paramakudi in Ramanathapuram district, the minister said he was not consulted by the chief minister before taking a decision on cutting down the Arasu cable TV charges. “The state government will witness a revenue loss of Rs 27 crore every month because of the reduction in the consumer rates. I was not consulted,” he told the media.
Manikandan had also criticised his cabinet colleague Udumalai R. Radhakrishnan, considered close to Chief Minister Palaniswami. “The newly appointed chairman of the state-run Arasu cable TV has said that the cable operators should not sell the private set top boxes to the consumers. But he himself is running a private cable TV called Akshaya which has around 2 lakh connections. This is clear conflict of interest,” Manikandan had said.
Hours after Manikandan’s comments, action came in the form of his removal from the cabinet. Governor Banwarilal Purohit had accepted the chief minister’s recommendation to drop Manikandan from the council of ministers, said a Raj Bhavan press release. “Based on the recommendation of the chief minister, the portfolio of information technology has been reallocated to R.B. Udhayakumar, Minister for Revenue and Disaster Management,” the release said.
This is the first time, since becoming the chief minister in February 2017, Palaniswami has dropped a minister. With the dropping of Manikandan, the strength of the Palaniswami cabinet has come down to 31.
It may be recalled that there are many differences among Palaniswami’s cabinet colleagues. Recently, his lieutenant and senior minister S.P. Velumani had released a video appealing to the people of the state to save rain water. This, reportedly has irked Palaniswami and others, as under late AIADMK supremo Jayalalithaa, no minister would ever go to the public directly. “It was always Jayalaithaa who would take out such messages to the public. After Velumani, even other ministers will do this,” said a senior leader.