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Jayalalithaa wins, set to be sworn in CM

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Ms. Jayalalithaa

CHENNAI, Feb. 24

THE AIADMK General Secretary, Ms Jayalalithaa, is all set to be sworn in as the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu following her victory in the Andipatti by-election.

Following her victory against her nearest DMK rival, Mr Vaigai Sekar, by about 41,000 votes, she was unanimously elected leader of the AIADMK's legislature party, which met at the party headquarters here this afternoon.

The Chief Minister, Mr O. Panneerselvam, who assumed office in September last, told reporters after the meeting of the AIADMK legislature party that Ms Jayalalithaa was unanimously elected leader. He later drove to Raj Bhavan and handed over his resignation as well as that of his council of ministers to the Governor, Mr P.S. Ramamohan Rao. The Governor accepted the resignation and asked Mr Panneerselvam to continue till the next ministry was sworn in.

An elated Ms Jayalalithaa told reporters at her residence even as the results were trickling in today that this was the best birthday gift for her. (Today is Ms Jayalalithaa's birthday.)

Ms Jayalalithaa, who led the AIADMK to power in the May 2001 Assembly elections, had to step down as chief minister in September following a Supreme Court verdict which held that the then Governor's appointment of Ms Jayalalithaa as chief minister was not valid. She could not contest the May 2001 elections after her nominations were rejected by the returning officers on the grounds that she was facing conviction for more than two years on different cases of alleged corruption filed against her by the then DMK Government.

It may be recalled that following Ms Jayalalithaa stepping down as chief minister after the Supreme Court verdict, Mr Panneerselvam, who was Revenue Minister in the Jayalalithaa Government, was selected to be the chief minister. Both Ms Jayalalithaa and Mr Panneerselvam had maintained that it (Mr Panneerselvam as chief minister) was only an interim arrangement and that Ms Jayalalithaa would be back once the courts cleared her of the cases. It is widely believed that Ms Jayalalithaa will go in for a much smaller ministry this time, as part of the cost-cutting measures in the wake of the financial crisis confronting the State. It is also believed that there will be a major reshuffle of senior bureaucrats once Ms Jayalalithaa settles down in office. Shortly after assuming office, Ms Jayalalithaa and her cabinet will have to get the Governor's address to the Assembly ready and thereafter finalise the budget.

A number of crucial financial and economic decisions, which have been put on the backburner, need to be taken urgently. These include reforms in the power sector, further measures to cut costs and bolster the State's finances, restructuring of the public distribution system, and framing an industrial policy.

There is also a belief among industrialists and potential investors that Tamil Nadu is no longer as hot an investment destination as it was till recently. Ms Jayalalithaa, industrialists as well as some officials say, will have to get into an aggressive marketing drive especially since her counterparts in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, Mr N. Chandrababu Naidu and Mr S.M. Krishna, are widely perceived as extremely industry-friendly and accessible.

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