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Chennai, May 22:  J Jayalalithaa was today set to return as Tamil Nadu Chief Minister for the fifth time after she was formally elected the leader of AIADMK Legislature party. Governor K Rosaiah invited her to form the government soon after her election, following which incumbent Chief Minister O Panneerselvam tendered his resignation. At an early morning meeting of the MLAs presided over by chairman of the party presidium E Madusudanan, 67-year-old Jayalalithaa was unanimously elected as AIADMK Legislature Party Leader following her acquittal by the Karnataka High Court in a disproportionate assets case. (Read: Tamil Nadu Governor invites J Jayalalithaa to form government) Also Read - Tamil Nadu Bans Gatherings At Beaches, Resorts, Pubs For New Year Due To COVID-19

Panneerselvam, also the party treasurer, moved a resolution proposing her name as the Legislature Party leader which was seconded by Electricity Minister Natham R Vishwanathan and adopted unanimously. The announcement was greeted with a thunderous applause and soon celebrations broke out in various parts of the state which was claimed to have witnessed a spate of suicides following Jayalalithaa’s conviction. A beaming Cooperative Minister, Sellur K Raju, later said, “This is the happiest day of our life.” Also Read - Kamal Haasan Hints At Ties With Rajinikanth For Polls, Invokes AIADMK Icon M G Ramachandran's Legacy

In the resolution moved by him, Panneerselvam heaped praise on his leader, calling her “gold refined in fire” and described her as the ‘permanent General Secretary’ of AIADMK. Expressing solidarity with Jayalalithaa, rebel MLAs of the opposition DMDK, including R Sundarrajan, Tamil Azhagan, K Pandiarajan, and R Santhi, participated in the AIADMK Legislature Party meeting. Soon after, Panneerselvam submitted the resignation of his Cabinet to Governor Rosaiah, who asked him to continue till the time alternative arrangements are made.

Jayalalithaa was disqualified following her conviction in the Rs 66.66 crore disproportionate assets case by a trial court in Bengaluru on September 27. The Karnataka High Court had subsequently acquitted her of the charges on May 11. She is likely to be sworn in “anytime now”, Raj Bhavan sources said. “The Governor of Tamil Nadu has invited Selvi (Ms) J Jayalalithaa to form the Ministry at the earliest and requested her to send the list of persons to be appointed as Ministers with portfolios,” a Raj Bhavan statement said.

Another statement from Raj Bhavan said,”The Governor of Tamil Nadu accepted the resignation of Panneerselvam and his council of Ministers from the forenoon of May 22, 2015.” Panneerselvam was sworn-in as Chief Minister on September 29 last year, two days after Jayalalithaa’s conviction. He had returned to the post for a second time after he was chosen by Jayalalithaa as her successor almost under similar circumstances in 2001 in the wake of her conviction in the TANSI case.

He had resigned six months later in 2002, when she was acquitted by the apex court. Panneerselvam’s resignation today ended his eight-month tenure. Much before the meeting, party workers and supporters from all over the state had started gathering in huge numbers at Avvai Shanmugam Salai, the AIADMK headquarters. Large hoardings hailing her return were put up in several parts of the city.

“Welcome Mother (Varuga Thaye)”, “Dharma has won”, proclaimed the captions on hoardings several of which had the image of a lioness alongside the picture of ‘Puratchi Thalaivi’ (Revolutionary Leader). The roads leading to Jayalalithaa’s Poes Garden residence were decked up with festoons, mango leaves and party flags. Women workers, who had collected there since early morning, distributed sweets and drew a welcome rangoli for their party chief.

In the afternoon, Jayalalithaa is set to garland the statues of Dravidian icon C N Annadurai, party founder M G Ramachandran and rationalist leader E V Ramasamy, a practice followed by Dravidian parties for important occasions. This would be her first public appearance in several months.