As per expectation, Sasikala is unanimously elected as AIADMK General Secretary. Still, in actual terms her leadership will not remain uncontested
T Venkatesan from Chennai
So far everything went well with military precision. On expected lines, Chinnamma (Sasikala Natarajan) confidante of late Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa, took over as next General Secretary of AIADMK, with her accepting the resolution of the party’s General Council. In a dramatic situation, Sasikala broke down as Chief Minister O Panneerselvam handed over her a resolution passed by the General Council of the party nominating her to the party’s most powerful post. She did not forget to come out in a green saree like Amma use to do. The crucial General Council Meeting, held at Vanagaram on December 29 elected her unopposed, just formalising the resolutions passed by district units.
Undeterred by the slew of IT and ED raids in the state, and swelling opposition against her to take over the party affairs, her tutored followers were working in tandem to make this a reality. There were serpentine queues to show subservience to Sasikala. She also gave audience to, reportedly a pre-arranged for a show of solidarity, to various sections of society at the Veda Nilayam, while maintaining stoic silence over her next moves.
On the one hand when the demand for Sasikala to take over the party reins were getting more insistent, voices of dissent too were emerging from the lower rungs. Several lower level office-bearers and cadres had opposed the move to elevate Sasikala. To avoid the space for disagreeable tone, invitations were sent to only known loyalists.
“We want to attend the meet and register our opposition. We were not allowed to file nominations. Our vehicles were stopped at the city outskirts by authorities. They want to elect her undemocratically” said ex-MLA from southern Tamil Nadu.
“Our only grouse is that she did not allow anyone, including ministers, to meet Amma ( Jayalalithaa) . That had given rise to a lot of rumours,” said Tirupathur Panchayat Union councillor K Muthu. Posters of Sasikala have been found vandalised in some parts of the state, including Chennai.
The AIADMK headquarters witnessed some chaotic scenes on day before the meet when on December 28 afternoon, party’s Rajya Sabha MP Sasikala Pushpa’s husband and legal counsel were attacked allegedly by partymen. Trouble began after Pushpa’s husband and a few others went to the AIADMK party headquarters to file nomination for the post of General Secretary of the party. However, AIADMK functionaries said trouble started after Thilagam and ten others who came to the party headquarters & refused to leave.
A huge banner in support of former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa’s niece, J Deepa, created flutter in Coimbatore. Cadres declared that they would not accept VK Sasikala as general secretary of the party. The section of AIADMK cadre named Deepa as ‘Junior Amma’.
“Until now, I have not staked claim to her property. I was never after money or fame. But Veda Nilayam (in Poes Garden) is different as the name itself implies. It carries my
grandmother’s (Vedavalli) name. I have said that I stand by the need for a more detailed report from the hospital administration and other people concerned.” Said Deepa.
Just 20 days into the office of the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, O Panneerselvam (OPS) is a different man now. After calling on the PM Modi last week in Delhi, on his return, OPS gave a dressing down to some State Ministers, saying the government's image was pathetic in Delhi. He also made it clear to a few top bureaucrats that they should take orders only from him, deterring the hopes of remote controlling the CM by the new General Secretary.
The general feeling is though Sasikala has crossed the first hurdle after taking over the top party
position; her leadership will be put to test in the upcoming local polls. Considering the nature of Tamil Nadu politics, the 2019 elections will unfold the next battle within AIADMK when the leadership will have to seek approval from not just the party but also the people.