Contray to popular sentiments, some leaders in AIADMK are pusing for anointing Sasikala as the successor of J Jayalalithaa that may create tussle within the party
The act of expostulating by the entire cadres, office bearers, MPs, MLAs to ingratiate the extra-constitutional authority on December 5, VK Sasikala aka Chinnamma to take over party affairs ever since the sudden demise of Jayalalithaa December 5, was in the expected line but not at this magnitude and speed.
AIADMK general secretary and Chief Minister Jayalalithaa’s death has left a huge vacuum in the party. The absence of the second rung leaders in the party has led to so many speculations sans only for a short while. With wild fire like speed the pre scripted drama is unfolding. Decks are cleared, Dress rehearsals have been done. Only formal acceptance by Sasikala, the long time confidante of Jayalalithaa to take over the party affairs as General Secretary is awaited. In AIADMK general secretary wields more power. Few voices that came feebly met with a premature death, as it lacked support from the party circles. But there was cadres at street, the real power for the party, vehemently opposed her elevation in open and did protests. But no one to lead them and capitalise their strength against her. Moreover they could not match the muscle and money power of Sasikala group.
“When Jayalaltihaa’s body was kept in Rajaji hall for the public to pay homage , the entire Mannargudi gang, ( how Sasikala’s relatives are called by political opponents), were standing near the ice box keeping a vigil not to allow anyone in Jayalalithaa’s family to stake claim for final rites. As decided earlier, everything went as planned like a rule book adherence. “Deepa Jayakumar, the niece of Jayalalithaa, was not only allowed to see her while she was in hospital and after death prevented from coming near her body by Mannargudi mafia,” said a party cadre Kannan.
Sasikala was first introduced to Jayalalithaa by former IAS officer V. Chandralekha. Her husband M. Natarajan was PRO at Cuddalore Collectorate where Chandralekha was the collector. Sasikala ran a video shop in Chennai and even Jayalalithaa’s mentor MGR had encouraged their friendship as he had felt it would benefit her. At one point Sasikala became a permanent resident of Poes Garden and decided to distance herself from her husband as Jayalalithaa publicly announced that party workers should not have any truck with Natarajan.
While, her one time protégé O Pannerselvam (OPS) was given go ahead to swearing in as CM, the process of taking over Jayalalithaa’s estate and control in party affairs left to sole discretion of Chinnamma. As per the amended party rule, anyone who aspires to become General Secretary should be a member of the party with five years without break, is a must. In Sasikala’s case, Jayalalithaa threw her and entire team in 2011 following widespread complaints of interference in governance and appointments. But it was revoked after six months. This made her to take a decision and exploring ways to overcome this hurdle thrown in her rosy path. In that case her choice would be her husband , Natarajan. After that there were no visible cracks in their relations and some surfaced after Jayalalithaa’s hospitalisation. If she wanted Jayalalithaa would have been taken abroad for better treatment. But reasons best known to some, Jayalalithaa remained in Apollo Hospital in Chennai where she breathed her last.
Day after her burial, Sasikala came back to Veda Nilayam, the residence of Jayalalithaa. All of a sudden party bigwigs stood in queue to sing paens and to request her to take over the party reins.. Even seniors (both in age and experience) had prostrated before her with folded hands to accept their request . CM Panneerselvam said, “Her leadership is necessary to ensure the party is run with military discipline. I urged her to fill the huge void created by the death of Amma.”
“Everyone in AIADMK prefers Chinnamma for the party leadership. She alone can take along everyone with her. I have also told her to become the general secretary of the party as early as possible to put an end to all rumours,” said former Minister KA Sengottaiyan, who, a day earlier, issued a statement quelling speculation that he might raise a banner of revolt. The party leaders openly back ‘Chinna Amma’ even as she meets Ministers and officials, widening her influence.
Providing clear signals that Sasikala will not face too many hurdles in gaining and probably even holding on to the reins of the ruling AIADMK in Tamil Nadu, a section of leaders in the party openly hailed her as the natural political heir of late Chief Minister Jayalalithaa. Even some of those who were earlier seen as possible stumbling blocks to her perceived political aspirations have declared that they would be loyal to the party. Many ministers, bureaucrats and police officers too were seen in Poes Garden. Senior party leaders, including Lok Sabha Deputy Speaker M. Thambidurai, Tamil Nadu Assembly Speaker P. Dhanapal and former Minister Pollachi V Jayaraman, met Sasikala.
Nagarajan, Coimbatore City unit presidium chairman, said “It is ‘Chinna Amma’ who fulfilled Amma’s wishes when she was alive. She
sacrificed her family life for the sake of Amma. Who will come forward to even leave her husband to take care of Amma.
Posters have come up in the last few days that put Sasikalaa in the big league, along with the likes of CN Annadurai, MGR and Jayalalithaa throughtout the state.
Panruti S Ramachandran and former Speaker of the legislature P H Pandian have not formally extended their support to Sasikalaa so far even as Ministers and functionaries have been calling on her and issuing
statements extending their support to her in a bid to consolidate her position in the party and her eventual elevation as general secretary.
Party sources comment: ‘Sasikala is unlikely to accommodate Natarajan or her brother V Divakaran in the party or any crucial posts. If at all she favours someone from the family, it would be her nephew T T V Dinakaran, former AIADMK treasurer and an MP popular among party cadres’.
“It will be foolish to underestimate her political skills . She has been cunning and shrewd in talks. She is sharp and demanding in deals, doesn’t compromise and never shies away from reasonable solutions,” said a senior journalist. “Her future and the party’s fate are all based on how she addresses caste equations in the party which already enjoys immense support within the Thevar , gounder communiies,” he added.
Even posters and hoardings urging Sasikala and to take up the post of AIADMK general secretary have come up across Tamil Nadu, her image was found defaced on Tuesday in Tiruchi, Thanjavur, Erode and a few other places a few days ago.
Deepa Jayakumar expressed shock at seeing her brother performing last rites with Sasikala “I have written hundreds of letters, but they did not reach her. She knew what was happening in our lives till 2004” she said. Deepa told news channels and websites that she was ready to enter politics and join the AIADMK if the people wanted, but earlier she was non-committal.P Kannan, an AIADMK member of Senthurai in Ariyalur district, put up banners in support of Deepa Jayakumar, urging partymen to back her to bring back the rule of Jayalalithaa.
Meanwhile, a writ petition was filed in the Supreme Court on December 14 seeking a CBI investigation into the “mysterious death” of Jayalalithaa. Leaders of alliance parties including CK Tamilarasan-led Republican Party of India, and legislator S Karunas-led Mukkalathor Puli Padai met and requested Sasikala to take on the top job of the AIADMK. Senior CPI leader Tha Pandian too made a courtesy call. n