Tamil Nadu Finance Minister Palanivel Thiaga Rajan (PTR) was recently dropped from the list of star speakers at public meetings of the ruling DMK.
The DMK’s move has sparked debate on PTR’s standing in the party, following the alleged audio tape controversy. His name being dropped from the list has also triggering a debate about his future in the party and government.
On Sunday, 7 May, PTR was supposed to deliver a speech on the two-year achievements of the DMK government.
But, for reasons best known to the DMK high command, his name was dropped from the speakers’ list.
On 3 May, Murasoli, the official newspaper of the DMK, announced that PTR would speak in the public meeting on Sunday, organised in Simakkal by the party’s Madurai City Unit.
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PTR dropped from speakers’ list
However, a day before the meeting, Murasoli dropped the name of PTR from the speakers’ list.
It added Jayaranjan, vice-chairman of the State Planning Commission, to replace PTR in the public meeting at Simakkal.
The DMK high command had announced that on the completion of two years of the DMK’s rule in the state, nearly 2,000 functionaries would speak in the public meetings that were organised at 1,200 places across Tamil Nadu from 7 to 9 May.
Every minister of the Cabinet was designated as a star speaker and was allotted a venue in their home district.
Speaking to South First, a functionary in the Madurai DMK unit said that the finance minister met the chief minister at his residence on 1 May.
Stalin, in his programme “Ungalil Oruvan” the next day, endorsed the explanation given by PTR on the audio issue.
“We thought that the issue was sorted between PTR and the DMK high command. But all the developments happening now give an impression that things haven’t improved,” he said.
He also said that the reason for dropping the minister’s name was not known to the second-line functionaries and it was a shock for them.
However, sources close to PTR said that the minister was not feeling well and thus Jayaranjan replaced him in the meeting. The minister has cited health issues to “drop out” of the event.
Related: MK Stalin endorses PTR rebuttal on audio leak
Worry for PTR?
According to sources, PTR was in Madurai on Sunday, where he went to the Palani Murugan temple in the evening.
In the temple, PTR left the rope car and proceeded to the Sanidhan. On his way, he tripped on a floor mat while he was walking.
Considering it a bad omen, PTR waited a few minutes before proceeding to worship.
In December 2022, when PTR last visited the temple, he was stuck in the rope car in the middle of the hill for a few minutes due to a sudden power shutdown.
“PTR, an ardent devotee of Lord Murugan, used to visit the temple whenever he was troubled. His grandfather was a patron of the temple. Due to this incident, PTR was a bit upset but later he was casual after having a good darshan,” an official who was with PTR in the temple on Sunday told South First.
On Monday, PTR participated in several welfare programmes in his constituency that were conducted on behalf of the district administration.
Speaking in a function PTR was pointing out the reforms he made in the finance department and how he managed to handle the financial deficit of the State in two years.
Related: Audio clip on DMK first family ‘malicious, fabricated’, says PTR
Will PTR retain his portfolio?
Meanwhile, Chief Minister MK Stalin is about to bring about change in his Cabinet this week.
According to sources in the Secretariat, Stalin will go on an official foreign tour at the end of this month to attract investments. Before that, he will drop a couple of ministers and bring new faces into the Cabinet.
“Even after the audio issue, the chief minister was advised by senior ministers not to opt for any action against PTR as it might backfire by giving the impression that the allegations put forth by the BJP were true. But after seeing the recent developments there are possibilities of changing the portfolio of PTR,” said the aforementioned IAS officer.
A highly placed DMK source, however, told South First that talks were going on to replace PTR with Industries Minister Thangam Thennarasu.
“But Thennarasu was keen on holding on to the industries portfolio as he brought some new investments to the state and planned to bring a few more. Law Minister S Ragupathi and Housing Minister S Muthusamy’s names were also considered for the post.
“But all these are speculations and only the chief minister has the discretion to decide his Cabinet. Considering all the aspects, he will do what is right for the party and the government,” the source said.