VK Sasikala - the longtime companion of J Jayalalithaa who became the party chief after her death - has been elected the chief of AIADMK's legislature party, clearing the decks for her takeover as the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu.
All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) MLAs on Sunday elected her to the position, while O Panneerselvam resigned as the chief minister. The developments came during a meeting of the MLAs of the ruling AIADMK.
Sasikala was elected as the legislative party leader during the meeting.
Panneerselvam proposed her name at the meeting of AIADMK legislators, party leaders said. "I resigned and we elected Sasikala unanimously as leader of the party in assembly. All MLAs are in support," said Panneerselvam.
Sasikala will be sworn in as the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu on February 9.
However, Sasikala will have to contest and win an election to become an MLA within a period of six months to continue being the chief minister of the state.
Earlier, Panneerselvam and other ministers met Sasikala at the Poes Garden residence of late Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa where Sasikala continues to live.
Commenting on Sunday's developments, Sasikala said, "Following the demise of our Honourable Amma, it was Thiru O Paneerselvam who urged me first to take charge as the general secretary of AIADMK. It was Paneerselvam who insisted first that I become the chief minister of the state."
The opposition DMK has protested, asking how Ms Sasikala, who has no political or administrative experience, can be picked to lead the government. "She has no experience. Was not even elected, don't know what her policies are. How can she be CM?" said a senior leader of the party.
Ms Sasikala, 61, is not an elected member of the assembly and had never held any post in the party. Chinamma (mother's younger sister) as she is fondly called by supporters, had taken charge of the party after a lot of coaxing from the partymen. After her acceptance, there have been calls for the 65-year-old Mr Panneerselvam - a Jayalalithaa loyalist who took over the top job after her death - to step down.
Earlier, Rajya Sabha MP Sasikala Pushpa and AIADMK leader K C Palaniswamy complained to the Election Commission (EC) that Sasikala's appointment as the party's interim general secretary had been carried out in an undemocratic manner.
The Election Commission issued a notice to the AIADMK, seeking clarifications in this regard.
Sasikala will be the third woman Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu after Janaki Ramachandran and Jayalalithaa.