Chennai: As AIADMK Supremo J Jayalalithaa is all set to form the next government in Tamil Nadu after her party’s resounding win in the Assembly election, a controversy has already erupted over Fort St George, the seat of government here for over 300 years.
Outgoing Chief Minister and M Karunanidhi, after having got a Rs 1,100-crore magnificent oval-shaped new secretariat-cum-assembly complex here inaugurated early last year at the hands of Prime MInister Manmohan Singh and UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi, hoped the Fort St George would soon become a relic of the past. After the first World Classical Tamil Conference at Coimbatore in June 2010, Karunanidhi passed an order to convert the old Assembly hall in Fort St George into a library for the Central Institute For Classical Tamil Studies here. Soon after the state secretariat was shifted to a new complex with the Chief Minister’s Office and other key departments starting their operations from there.
The AIADMK leader had even said that if returned to power, she and her party colleagues would take oath as MLAs only in the historic Assembly hall inside Fort St George. Hence, in a move to apparently outsmart Jayalalitha, the DMK patriarch overnight converted the old Assembly hall into an elegant-looking “Pavendar Semmozhi Noogla Aaivu Arangam” (research library for classical Tamil) and stacked it with a row of books and journals, besides adorning its walls with portraits of Tamil scholars.
But with Jayalalitha now all set to take over as chief minister again, the CM’s chamber in Fort St George has been given a facelift, even as the heritage structure on “Kamaraj Salai” facing the sea is getting a fresh coat of paint.
Sources said Jayalalitha also wants the old Assembly hall to be restored and the library there was being shifted from Saturday.
However, officially it is still not clear whether the newly elected members will take their oath only at Fort St George, though the swearing-in ceremony is billed to be held in the Madras University Centenary Auditorium.