As govt completes two years, major cabinet reshuffle in cards in Tamil Nadu

The legislative U-turns, DMK Files and PTR audio have dented DMK govt's image

Stalin and PTR Palanivel Thiaga Rajan

Tamil Nadu cabinet under Chief Minister M.K. Stalin is all set to witness a major reshuffle in a couple of weeks. A bureaucratic-level transfer is also on the cards as senior bureaucrats will be retiring in the next two months.

In the next ten days, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam government under Stalin in Tamil Nadu will complete two years in office. But DMK and its leader Stalin, who is seen as the fulcrum of opposition unity in India, seem to be in no mood to celebrate the second anniversary. More than the celebrations, the ruling party is looking for a major course correction to set right all its shortcomings.

The two big U-turns made by the government--withholding the 12-hour work bill and deleting the clause in the Government Order issued to serve liquor in conference halls, marriage halls, banquet halls and convention centres--have turned into a huge embarrassment for the Stalin government. Adding trouble is the ‘DMK files’ released by Tamil Nadu BJP President K. Annamalai and the legal fight over it, and the Income Tax raids at a realty company G Square, allegedly linked to the DMK first family. Apart from these, the other major embarrassment is the two purported audio tapes of finance minister P.T.R. Palanivel Thiaga Rajan where he talks about Stalin’s son and son-in-law making Rs 30,000 crore and looking for avenues to invest it.

More than the two major U-turns in policy decisions or the legal fight with Annamalai or the IT raids at G Square, DMK insiders say that PTR audio has caused a huge dent in the image of the government and the party as the audio directly points fingers at Stalin. Inside sources in the BJP say that there are more audio clips of PTR, at least two, which will be released by Annamalai in the near future. 

“All these have brought a bad name to our government and our leader. If two more audio clips come out then definitely our leader will think of a major reshuffle in the government and in the party,” a senior DMK leader on conditions of anonymity told THE WEEK. In fact, hours after Annamalai released the second audio clip, PTR, Water resources minister and DMK general secretary Durai Murugan rushed into a closed-door meeting with Stalin, highly placed sources say. PTR had offered to quit as finance minister and go on two-month leave to the USA. However, Stalin had asked him not to resign as it will only strengthen Annamalai’s statement. It was only after several hours of discussion PTR was asked to give a video statement saying the second audio is also “fabricated” like the first one.

But DMK insiders say that Stalin has decided to go for a major reshuffle in the cabinet and also at the bureaucratic level. Senior officials in the government are also likely to be replaced. A major change in IAS officers is expected soon. Within the next two months, Chief Secretary V. Iraianbu and Head of Police Force (HoPF) Sylendra Babu will be retiring from service. Sources say Chennai City Police Commissioner Shankar Jiwal is in the race for the top post. Senior officers like Shiv Das Meena, Hans Raj Varma and finance secretary Muruganandham are in the race for chief secretary. 

In the cabinet, sources say that a few ministers are likely to be dropped and new faces from South Tamil Nadu are likely to be inducted into the cabinet. Sources say that ministers with lucrative portfolios like municipal administration, highways, dairy development, school education, food and civil supplies, handloom and textiles, tourism, revenue and disaster management and also departments like Minorities welfare and Adi Dravidar welfare are likely to be dropped. 

During the last cabinet meeting, sources say, Stalin had warned a few ministers calling out their names and asking them to perform. And when the Assembly was in session, he had expressed displeasure about the performance of most of the ministers. He had even called some of the ministers and told them to talk about the subject more than praising him. However, all his efforts did not yield any results. 

This time though, during the cabinet meeting scheduled to be held on May 2, Stalin is expected to be very harsh on his cabinet colleagues for their inefficiency in handling their departments.

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