Leaked audio tapes seem to have miffed DMK's first family; rumours say PTR may be shifted to an insignificant role in the Stalin cabinet.
“It feels like a shock, an absolutely unwarranted move playing into the hands of those who want to destabilise the party,” tweeted writer and activist Meena Kandasamy.
Kandasamy was not the only one to respond to rumours that Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin would strip Palanivel Thiaga Rajan of the finance portfolio, which many felt, has been deftly handled.
Speculation is rife that PTR, as the finance minister is commonly referred to, would be handed a different portfolio after the swearing-in of Mannarkudi MLA TRB Rajaa, who has been drafted into the Stalin Cabinet.
Rajaa, who would replace the dropped Minister for Milk and Dairy Development SM Nasar, will be administered the oath of office on Thursday, 11 May.
It is also in the wind that the chief minister would effect a major reshuffle of portfolios once Rajaa is sworn in.
According to the talk making the rounds, the reshuffle would affect ministers M Mathiventhan, Kayalvizhi Selvaraj, K Ponmudi, Geetha Jeevan, and Anitha Radhakrishnan.
The reshuffle, it has been rumoured, would be based on the performance of ministers. However, one name that baffled all was that of PTR.
On 25 April, BJP Tamil Nadu president K Annamalai posted an audio clip on social media. A man’s voice, purportedly that of PTR, was heard lambasting Stalin’s son and minister Udayanidhi Stalin and the chief minister’s son-in-law V Sabareesan.
Two days later PTR said the audio was fabricated and a deepfake.
Days later, Annamalai circulated another audio of a man speaking about the wealth amassed by the first family of the ruling DMK. The BJP claimed that it was PTR who was speaking.
PTR released a video denying the allegations and stated that he holds the first family in high regard. He added that Udhayanidhi is the future of the party and Sabareesan, his advisor and guide.
Meanwhile, the Opposition parties took up the issue and even made a complaint to Governor RN Ravi, seeking an inquiry. There was also talk that top DMK leaders had demanded that Stalin drop PTR from the Cabinet.
But senior ministers convinced Stalin that any action against PTR would give the BJP extra mileage.
Days later, Stalin, in his ‘Question and Answer’ programme, ‘Ungalil Oruvan’, endorsed PTR’s rebuttal.
Stalin said PTR himself had explained the audio twice and he didn’t want to respond and give publicity to those who indulged in “cheap politics”.
Political observers felt Stalin had put the controversy to rest with his statement.
However, a piece of leaked information from Anna Arivalayam, the DMK headquarters, suggested PTR’s days as the finance minister were numbered. He would be provided with a less significant portfolio, it said.
He was also dropped from the list of star speakers at public meetings of the ruling DMK, which further fuelled speculation about his standing in the party.
“There are no allegations, corruption charges or mismanagement against PTR. It would be obvious that if his portfolio is changed, it is due to the audio clips,” political observer Sumanth C Raman told South First.
“The circumstances under which he is shunted out will become a talking point,” he added.
Meanwhile, netizens have sprung to the defence of PTR.
Over the last two years of its governance, the DMK gave us a lot of reason to applaud their performance (social spending, welfare schemes, reducing the revenue deficit by 30,000 crores) and also the occasional heartache (vengaivayal, 12 hour work days, evictions). Today as…
— Meena Kandasamy (@meenakandasamy) May 10, 2023
Please quash the rumours that PTR is about to be shifted from the finance portfolio. He had performed excellently as the FinMin. He was handling the Sanghi Ecosytem brilliantly.
— Dusky Tamilachi (@TamilRatsaschi) May 10, 2023
The hashtag #I_Stand_With_PTR is also trending on Twitter.
Many pro-DMK handles requested Stalin not to shift PTR, but few other DMK handles supported the change in portfolio.
கழகம் > ஆட்சி அதிகாரம் > தனி மனிதர்
— Surya Born To Win (@Surya_BornToWin) May 10, 2023
PTR துறை மாற்றப்பட்டால் அதற்கு முக்கிய காரணங்கள்
1)அரசு ஊழியர்களின் கோரிக்கைக்கு செவிமெடுக்காதது
2)மற்ற துறைகளின் திட்டங்களுக்கு நிதி ஒதுக்குவதில் தாமதம்,கடுமை காட்டியது
3)அரசியல் ரீதியாக சிந்திக்காதது(working like Manager) தேவையின்றி முக்கிய திட்டங்கள் நிதி தாமதம் செய்வது
— Dev (@Devatrz) May 10, 2023
Speaking to South First a senior DMK leader, who requested anonymity, said it would be the discretion of the chief minister to add, drop or retain a person in his Cabinet.
“We do not know what is in the chief minister’s mind, though there is speculation that PTR’s portfolio will be changed,” he said.
“If it is changed, we can assume two things about it: One, it is a warning to other ministers and functionaries not to talk against the first family. Second, keep PTR away from the vicinity of the first family, by allocating a less significant portfolio,” he opined.
He further added: “PTR will excel in whichever department allocated to him. But what reason will the DMK high command give to the people for shifting PTR out of finance?”