In a surprise move, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami dropped Information Technology Minister M Manikandan from his cabinet late on Wednesday. A press release from Tamil Nadu Governor Banwarilal Purohit's office said, â€śBased on the recommendation of the Chief Minister, the portfolio of Information Technology has been re-allocated to Thiru RB Udhayakumar, Minister for Revenue and Disaster Management, who shall be re-designated as Minister for Revenue & Disaster Management and Information Technology.â€ť This is the first time since taking office as the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister that Palaniswami has sacked a minister.
Earlier in the day, Minister Manikandan had accused cabinet colleague and Animal Husbandry Minister Udumalpet Radhakrishnan of running his own private cable network. In July, Radhakrishnan was appointed the chairman of the Tamil Nadu Arasu Cable TV Corporation Limited (TACTV), the government-run cable service. Having had experience as a cable TV operator, Radhakrishnan was tasked with reviving the prospects of Arasu cable. However, Manikandan had hinted at a potential conflict of interest, stating, â€śI'm a doctor. I used to perform surgeries. Now I'm a minister and it won't be right if I performed surgeries. I have completely left my doctor profession and am functioning as the IT Minister. I cannot do that (perform surgeries) and be a minister as well.â€ť
Arasu Cable has been beset by woes in recent years with the migration of subscribers to private service providers and lack of government subsidies for set-top boxes, leading to dwindling revenues for the government agency. Minister Radhakrishnanâ€™s appointment was reportedly made without the knowledge or consultation of Manikandan.
Speaking to reporters on Wednesday in Ramanathapuram district, Manikandan had said, â€śThey have appointed Udumalpet Radhakrishnan as chief (of TACTV). He has done the business, he is well-versed. We have to wait and watch how he does it. Let's see what happens. Even now, he has announced certain new things. He has said that those who had migrated from government cable to private, must be changed back (to Arasu cable). All this cannot be carried out overnight. Firstly, he has two lakh connections and is operating a firm called Akshaya Cable. As an example, he should convert the two lakh connections to government set-top boxes. He should first change and then tell others. If he gives his two lakh connections, the government would get a lot of revenue.â€ť
It appears that the public spat between his ministers did not sit well with the Chief Minister, who reportedly wanted to send a message to ministers and AIADMK leaders 'speaking out of turn.'