CHENNAI: After long years since Rajaji was at the helm in the early 1950s' at Fort St. George, the seat of power in Tamil Nadu, the political geography of Salem district has been in the limelight in the last three years, with Mr. Edappadi K Palaniswami being only the second 'Salem Man' to become Chief Minister.
Prior to C. Rajagopalachari, Rajaji as he was widely known, it was Dr Subbaroyan, a scion of the famous Zamindars of Kumaramangalam in former composite Salem district, who was Premier of erstwhile Madras Presidency before Independence.
The subsequent Kumaramangalams, Mohan Kumaramangalam and Rangarajan Kumaramanglam, were prominent as Central Ministers in the national political scene, but yet the State 'gaddi' eluded them.
Thus Edappadi K Palaniswami, coming to occupy the office of the Chief Minister of the State, by sudden turn of events here in the turbulent post-Jayalalithaa political scenario, has a Salem district political legacy to lean back even if his candidature was a crisis-moment choice in the AIADMK at a critical juncture.
The dhoti-clad, low-profile smiling farmer from Salem, was more a back-bencher in the Assembly when Ms. Jayalalithaa was the Chief Minister. A former one-time MP, though holding key portfolios' in Amma's third term, the change in Mr. Palaniswami's political profile has been dramatic, more so in the last one year.
His three-nation foreign tour of UK, USA and Dubai in 2019 seeking more direct foreign investments into Tamil Nadu, saw a signal change in his sartorial statement, attired in coat and suit that gave him a different political silhouette, particularly in the visual media that seemed to give him a new USP.
But as his new attire abroad drew sharp responses in the social media locally, Mr. Palaniswami in the latter part of his foreign journey reverted to presenting himself as the 'dhoti-clad Tamilian', if only to reassure his image in the minds of the people as the 'smiling farmer from Salem'. He often refers to his agricultural roots with pride at public rallies, a la Tamil Nadu's own Deve Gowda....