Controversies surrounding Sasikala after Jayalalithaa's death

‘Sasikala for CM’ campaign could spell trouble for OPS

A poster of Jayalalithaa’s close friend V.K. Sasikala in Tiruchi. File photo  

With a section of ministers and AIADMK leaders openly launching a ‘Sasikala for CM’ campaign, incumbent Tamil Nadu Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam is likely to be caught in an uneasy situation where his own position as head of government could be undermined. While in the past Mr. Panneerselvam had held the top job twice as an “interim arrangement”; this time around, he appears set for a longer innings in the government.

However, before he could settle down in his official role, his own Cabinet colleague – Revenue Minister R.B. Udhayakumar, who also heads the Jayalalithaa Peravai, and the AIADMK Theni district secretary-cum-legislator Thangatamilselvan – have openly appealed to V.K. Sasikala to assume charge as Chief Minister in addition to the party’s general secretaryship. The appeal has been endorsed by a few others.

Mr. Udhayakumar, who on Monday tonsured his head to mourn the death of former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa, however, sees nothing unusual about his desire to see Ms. Sasikala heading the Cabinet. “It is not a question of projecting someone as an alternative to someone else. As far as the party cadre are concerned, Chinnamma (Sasikala) is the only heir-apparent (of Jayalalithaa) and it is our desire that she should lead both the party and the administration,” he told The Hindu.

Now, posters have sprang up in various parts of the State calling upon Ms. Sasikala to follow in the footsteps of Jayalalithaa. In fact, one of the posters is designed in such a way that it reads as if Jayalalithaa is addressing the people: “I take leave after relentless hard work and Sasikala will step in to fill my role.”

OPS was Sasikala’s choice

Asked how could the AIADMK MLAs who have unanimously elected Mr. Panneerselvam as the Leader of the ruling party, renege on their affirmation, Mr. Udhayakumar contended that it was Ms. Sasikala who first identified Mr. Panneerselvam for the Chief Minister post in September 2001.

“She zeroed in on him for the Chief Minister’s post for the first time even though there were senior ministers like C. Ponnaiyan. She favoured him even on subsequent occasion in 2014. Now, we want her to take over the mantle of the party and government as she has learnt all the skills of governance by working closely with Amma (Jayalalithaa),” claimed Mr. Udhayakumar.

A former AIADMK minister, however, described the development as unfortunate and said it would not augur well for the State. “Mr. Panneerselvam was the natural choice of Jayalalithaa not once, but three times. Even when she was hospitalised, she transferred her portfolios to Mr. Panneerselvam. I do not know who is behind all these orchestrated campaigns. The divided loyalty of Cabinet members will also disrupt the functioning of the bureaucracy in the State,” said the leader, requesting anonymity.

He contended that Mr. Panneerselvam, over the years, had proved his mettle as an administrator through his affable nature and accessibility, and he deserved appreciation for effective rehabilitation work in the wake of Cyclone Vardah.

Former IAS officer M.G. Devasahayam said he would not rule out the hand of the Centre in the internal developments of the AIADMK so as to resort to a divide and rule policy. “I am not surprised by the demand of the AIADMK ministers and others as they are ‘slaves’,” he charged, adding that Mr. Panneerselvam was a weak Chief Minister. He suspects that the BJP could be exploiting the situation hoping to control the ruling party.

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Printable version | May 9, 2021 1:34:03 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/%E2%80%98Sasikala-for-CM%E2%80%99-campaign-could-spell-trouble-for-OPS/article16907890.ece

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