PTR voice clip, PTR Palanivel Thiagarajan. Tamil Nadu cabinet reshuffle
PTR Palanivel Thiagarajan has been shifted from finance to the relatively less important information technology portfolio | File photo

PTR loses finance portfolio, but TN cabinet rejig was not only about him

PTR Palanivel Thiagarajan’s shift from finance to the relatively less important information technology portfolio in Chief Minister MK Stalin’s recent Cabinet reshuffle seems to be a direct impact of the recent audio leak controversy.

PTR seems to have been expecting the move, as it was evident from his 300-word rejoinder (in English and Tamil) released minutes after the decision was made official. Already, the social media campaign #IStandWithPTR was trending in the last couple of days over speculation of the move. When it happened, Twitter was flooded with messages in his support.

One netizen felt “DMK and CM Stalin have made a grave mistake of moving PTR from finance.” Another tweeted, “CM Stalin and his team made the Sanghis happy by demoting PTR.”

The responses were sharp, as PTR was much celebrated on social media for taking on the BJP and its supporters. The Cambridge-educated PTR countered many BJP claims with data on his fingertips, making him one of the most popular faces of DMK at the national level.

Political observers feel DMK is slowly losing a person who can vocally take on the party’s adversaries in English.

Also read: Audio clip leak: With Stalin’s defence, storm blows over for PTR, for now

PTR takes setback in his stride

Even though talks of PTR being dropped from the Cabinet have been put to rest, it is a setback that the finance portfolio has been taken away from him. But he appears to have taken the decision in his stride by releasing a rejoinder on his Twitter account. Even as PTR thanked Stalin for giving him the opportunity to work as the finance minister for two years, he said he looked forward to the IT portfolio.

“Though Tamil Nadu was a pioneer in this field (information technology), we have unfortunately lagged our true potential in this sector in the last decade or so. I plan to build on the great efforts of my predecessor to attract more investments, accelerate job-creation, and deliver growth at a pace that will re-establish Tamil Nadu as a leading state in IT,” he tweeted.

Industries minister Thangam Thennarasu has taken over as the new finance minister, while the newly inducted TRB Rajaa has been given the industries portfolio. The three-time Mannargudi MLA, TRB Rajaa, is the son of DMK MP TR Baalu. After replacing PTR as the DMK IT wing head, TRB Rajaa is now being inducted into the cabinet, too.

Also read: PTR slams Annamalai, says second audio clip is yet again deep fake

Rejig to address general anger?

Political observers believe the cabinet reshuffle tried to address the general discontentment with the present DMK government, apart from responding to the damning contents allegedly spoken by PTR in the leaked audio file.

First, it was the milk supply crisis in the state government’s Aavin dairy co-operative. After many weeks of reported shortages across the state, capital city Chennai was also affected. But Dairy Development and Co-operative Societies Minister SM Nasar denied there was any shortage of supply. SA Ponnusamy, founder-president, Tamil Nadu Milk Dealers’ Association, accused that the minister was lying to hide his inefficiency.

Ultimately, Nasar lost the ministry. IT minister Mano Thangaraj has taken over as the new Dairy Development minister. Removal of the minister isn’t enough to set things right, said Ponnusamy. “The government should move further and axe bureaucrats who goofed up,” Ponnusamy added.

Also read: Audio clip leak: Stalin stands by PTR, accuses Annamalai of ‘cheap politics’

More unhappiness to address

But there is more discontentment for the DMK to address ahead of the 2024 parliamentary polls. The MSME sector believes not enough importance was given to it, especially in the state budget. “The kind of importance given to the big industries wasn’t there for MSMEs, which, on the contrary, ensure more jobs,” said KE Raghunathan, Chairman of the Association of Indian Entrepreneurs.

Teachers and government employees, a large section of whom are loyal DMK supporters, felt betrayed by the DMK. “MK Stalin said he would abolish the contributory pension scheme (CPS) once he came to power. On the contrary, the finance minister said in the assembly that it (abolishing CPS) is not feasible,” said the president of a teachers’ association.

“The 7.5 lakh government employees and teachers have been pinning hopes on this government, as their demands weren’t met by the previous AIADMK regime. Teachers working for a consolidated pay need to be regularised; there are issues with the pay band of teachers. There is a delay in the release of DA for government employees. If the DMK government’s claims regarding the financial stability of the state are true, they should accept our legitimate demands,” he said.

The teachers’ association hopes that new Finance Minister Thangam Thennarasu, who served as minister of education in the DMK’s previous term, will help rectify issues with a “skewed” fund allocation.

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