In Tamil Nadu, Chief Minister Edappadi Palanisami dropped a minister from his Cabinet – a first in his tenure. IT Minister M Manikandan lost his portfolio hours after he publicly accused the CM on unilaterally slashing the cable tariff.
A statement from Raj Bhavan stated: "The Governor of Tamil Nadu has accepted the recommendation of the chief minister to drop M. Manikandan, minister for Information Technology from the council of ministers."
The IT portfolio has been given to revenue minister R B Udhayakumar temporarily.
With the dropping of Manikandan, the strength of the Edappadi Cabinet comes down to 31. Earlier in 2017, the CM had reshuffled the cabinet to accommodate O Paneerselvam as the deputy chief minister and his loyalist Pandiarajan after the merger of the rival AIADMK fractions.
Manikandan had expressed his dissatisfaction over the CM's interference in his section. He had said that the chief minister alone took the decision to reduce the cable TV monthly subscription and that he was not consulted before the decision. This would have caused a revenue loss of Rs 27 crore every month for the government.
He even alleged that the government declined to fund the TACTV (Tamil Nadu Arasu Cable TV), the government cable network that comes under the department of IT.
"When we approached the government to bear the cost of STBs (Set Top Boxes), the then Finance Secretary and present Chief Secretary K. Shanmugam declined to accept. As a result, we repaid Rs 400 crore of the total debt (towards providing free STBs) of Rs 619 crore from our (TACTV) revenue. When we were in distress, neither the government nor anyone came to our rescue. If the government comes forward to provide the balance of Rs 219 crore or gives the amount as loan, we can even fix the Arasu Cable tariff at Rs 100 a month," he said, as per a report in The Hindu.
Animal Husbandry Minister Udumalai Radhakrishnan, a close aide of Edappadi, was appointed as the chairman of TACTV on July 22. Manikandan had a different opinion on this decision as well. He accused Radhakrishnan of having a conflict of interest in functioning as the chief of the government cable company since he owned a private cable company. He took a jab at Radhakrishnan by saying that he must first shift the subscription base of his private cable network to the Arasu cable network.
The action against Manikandan is said to be a warning for others for publicly voicing dissent against the CM.
A doctor by profession, Manikandan had worked as an assistant professor in Madurai Medical College. In the past, he has been accused of even being a sand mafia. Many had accused him of joining hands with the mining operation in Ramanathapuram district. In June, an anti-sand mining activist was hacked to death in the Ilayanur village in Ramanathapuram and activists had blamed the government for supporting the culprits.