Left to right: Annamalai, Suresh Gopi, Kanimozhi
Left to right: Annamalai, Suresh Gopi, Kanimozhi

Suresh Gopi’s confusion and Annamalai’s status quo: Powertrip

It’s been a week since the Lok Sabha election results – we have a Modi 3.0 government in place, supported by its NDA allies, and a cabinet that looks very much like the previous one. In this week’s Powertrip, a political newsletter exclusively curated for TNM subscribers by Dhanya Rajendran, Shabbir Ahmed, and Pooja Prasanna, we give you the inside scoop on first-time MP and newly sworn-in Minister of State Suresh Gopi’s reluctance about the job. We spoke to multiple sources – those close to the politician and those in the Malayalam film industry – on why he said just hours after being sworn in that he hoped to be relieved. And no, it’s not because he was made a junior minister.

One leader who did not make the cut in the Modi 3.0 cabinet is BJP Tamil Nadu chief Annamalai. There was much speculation over him getting a promotion after the elections. But that was not to be, as we told you in last week’s Powertrip, four days before the swearing-in ceremony. So what fueled these discussions over Annamalai being made MoS? This week’s issue reveals the details. Also in Powertrip, the thinking behind Kanimozhi’s elevation as DMK’s Parliamentary party leader and the inside story on the bureaucratic reshuffle in Tamil Nadu.

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Suresh Gopi’s MoS conundrum

Winning an election the first time and then immediately becoming a minister would be any politician’s dream, right? Well, apparently not if you go by the comments made by BJP’s first ever Lok Sabha MP from Kerala, Suresh Gopi. Soon after the swearing-in, the MP told Malayalam channels that he did not want any post and that he was sure he would be relieved soon. The next day, when news channels started reporting that he may resign as MoS, the actor vehemently denied it. So what was the real problem?

We spoke to several sources and they tell us that Suresh Gopi’s main issue wasn’t that he was only made a junior minister, but it was really about his acting career. The actor gets around Rs 5-6 crore per film and has signed up for almost 4 movies (we have confirmed this with multiple people in the film industry). Malayalis reading this may be surprised that he charges such a steep fee, but industry insiders say that’s because a couple of his films did well in recent years and a few producers associate him with a luck factor. Suresh Gopi has signed a movie with actor Mammootty’s production company and will play a main role in a biography on a religious leader.

“He has planned his finances around these movies and his producers will become jittery if he is going to vanish from the scene for five years. A lot of MPs still act in movies but it’s not the same if you are a minister. There is no way you can commit bulk dates to a producer. Which is why Suresh Gopi wants to be relieved,” a source said. Suresh Gopi has given interviews in the past about how his finances hit rock bottom when his roles dried up and how he stayed afloat.

But it’s not just about finances. Perhaps he had committed to these films anticipating a defeat. Insiders say he hopes to be relieved in a year, so he can fulfil his movie commitments.

Annamalai’s team fuels MoS rumours

Two weeks ago, we had written that Narendra Modi is contemplating making Tamil Nadu BJP chief Annamalai a Minister of State, irrespective of whether he wins or not. Things didn’t pan out for the BJP as expected and Annamalai didn’t make the cut.

Now there are two parts to this story – the first is why there was a discussion to make him an MoS in the first place. Some sources say that he isn’t Amit Shah’s favourite and Shah was against moving him to Delhi. The PM, meanwhile, thought that inducting Annamalai into the cabinet would further strengthen the TN agenda of the BJP. Though the chances seemed bleak when polls ended, Annamalai’s team spread two rumours – one, that he got a call from the PMO, and the second that he personally feels he should not move to Delhi as that would be seen as a punishment back home in Tamil Nadu.

The Delhi media which acted like cheerleaders for Annamalai throughout this election kept speculating his name and at one point even we almost fell for it. We were of course selfishly happy that we got it right in last week’s Powertrip!

The strategy behind Kanimozhi’s elevation

Kanimozhi’s elevation as Parliamentary Party leader of the DMK has come as no surprise. There are many reasons for this. One is that TR Baalu who had the responsibility for many years has to now pass on the reins. Though Baalu is not bound to be happy with the decision, he is 83 years old and the party has given him prominence for years. Kanimozhi would be the DMK’s Delhi face and since she has over the years developed a good rapport with the Gandhis and others, it was an easy pick for the party.

But there’s more to the story. With Kanimozhi firmly settled as the Delhi person, it would give more room for Udhayanidhi to emerge as the family’s next generation face in Tamil Nadu. There is speculation that his elevation in the government will happen soon and would be hinted at in the ‘mupperum vizha’, a meeting in Coimbatore on June 15 to celebrate the DMK’s victory in the Lok Sabha elections.

We are not done yet. DMK district secretaries who did not do well will be changed and the review has already begun. The meetings are being conducted at a ministerial bungalow and not at the DMK’s headquarters.

Buzz over bureaucratic reshuffle

Apart from that, the buzz in the corridors of power in Tamil Nadu is that there will be a ministerial reshuffle as well as a bureaucratic reshuffle. The talk among bureaucrats is that the present all powerful Secretary 1 to the Chief Minister is likely to become the Chief Secretary. The present Chief Secretary Shiv Das Meena is likely to be transferred and posted as Chairman of the Tamil Nadu Real Estate Regulatory Authority. There could be changes in the Finance Department too; Finance Secretary Udaychandran is likely to be moved to the Education Department.

There are also some top IAS officers who have expressed their willingness to go for central deputation. The files have been moved and orders will be issued. One among them is Rajesh Lakhoni, who is the present Chairman of the Tamil Nadu Generation and Distribution Corporation (TANGEDCO). Beela Venkatesan, who is the present Energy Secretary, is tipped to be the frontrunner for the TANGEDCO Chairman post. Hectic parleys are taking place in Fort St George, where some other IAS officers also are eyeing the post. Papers regarding how Beela wielded power during the previous AIADMK regime are also being circulated to stop her from getting the plum post.

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