Jayalalithaa and agriculture minister KA Sengottaiyan during the swearing-in ceremony in Chennai on Monday. (PTI)
Chennai, May 18: She might have gone back to the chief ministers old office but Jayalalithaa seems to be sporting a new approach and attitude.
The AIADMK boss spoke to her 34 ministers, 24 of them new faces, politely and affectionately at the first meeting of her cabinet yesterday as she urged them not to be distracted from the partys one-point goal to provide a clean and effective government.
Gone was the strict matronly approach that old-timers said often characterised her interactions with ministers in her previous stints in power.
At least thrice she said that we were indebted to the people for their massive support and effective implementation of the promises made in the manifesto would be the best way of repaying our gratitude, said a senior minister.
She spoke in a mellow tone and not in her usual assertive tenor as she probably did not want the new ministers to be overwhelmed by the occasion.
After a lengthy introductory speech, Jayalalithaa took her ministerial colleagues by surprise when she sought their suggestions on how to speed up welfare measures. Normally, her ministers reply in monosyllables but today some spoke frankly. One of them even suggested that Tamil Nadu should study the public transport service in Karnataka to make its own services profitable, said a senior official.
The meeting was held at Fort St George, the old seat of power that Jayalalithaa declared would be her office and not a new multi-crore complex built by the DMK regime.
But senior officials preferred to wait for sometime to see if Jayalalithaa would delegate decision-making powers to her ministers, unlike in the past when virtually every file had to be routed to her office for final approval in a process that led to delays. Even ministers would feel safer to leave the decisions to Jayalalithaa as most of them were inexperienced. To overcome delays, she had delegated powers to a few senior officers. This speeded up the administration. She may resort to the same practice this time too, a senior IAS officer said.
Jayalalithaa has asked senior officers in the chief ministers office not to hesitate to call her anytime if a major development takes place.
But it was R. Narendran who offered the most telling glimpse of the change in Tamil Nadus new chief minister. We are looking at a new Jayalalithaa this time. No minister fell at her feet at the swearing-in. That in itself is a huge departure from the past, the ENT surgeon said.