It's back to Fort St.George
AIADMK supremo J Jayalalithaa, who will be sworn in as the chief minister of Tamil Nadu on Monday, has decided to shift the seat of governance and the assembly back into the colonial building at Fort St. George in Chennai, said officials. The old secretariat was being spruced up on Saturday to welcome the new chief minister. Firemen were deployed to give the building a wash and painters were at work on a fresh coat. AIADMK had said back in February 2011 that if elected, it would move the government back into the historical structure, which was the seat of power in the state until 2010. The move puts a question mark over the fate of the new secretariat constructed at a cost of Rs 1,200 crore under the DMK regime. However, historians, conservationists and former bureaucrats welcomed the proposal, saying Fort St. George provided a historical setting suitable for governance. “It carries a legacy and has been the place from where legislatures have functioned since India attained Independence,” said a historian. Fort St George was the gateway to the subcontinent for the British in India. The East India Company founded a trading settlement at the site in the 17th century before consolidating its rule over the region. The administration under M Karunanidhi’s rule had shifted from the building to the new secretariat citing space constraints. However, the new facility on Anna Salai is far from ready and has been a subject of controversy for its architectural style and scope. PWD secretary K Dhanavel and other senior officials have already begun to speed up repair works at the Fort. The chief minister’s office, which was in disuse for months, is being restored to have it ready before May 16. The AIADMK chief will call on the Governor on Sunday morning to stake claim to form the government. She is likely to be sworn in on Monday along with a 30-member cabinet. Party veterans who have served in previous AIADMK regimes would get ministerial posts, officials said. Their offices would be renovated as well. Among senior bureaucrats, chief secretary S Malathi has already shifted back to the old secretariat. Similarly, other departments including public, PWD, rural development and municipal administration are also being relocated to the old premises. Senior police officials visited Fort St George on Saturday to review security arrangements.