Mannargudi clan hogs limelight at funeral, triggers controversy

Many taken aback by the prominent presence of Sasikala’s relatives

Updated - December 07, 2016 05:07 pm IST

Published - December 07, 2016 07:51 am IST - CHENNAI

Family members of Sasikala at Rajaji Hall, where former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa’s body was kept for the public to pay their last respects.

Family members of Sasikala at Rajaji Hall, where former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa’s body was kept for the public to pay their last respects.

After lying low for many years, the family members of V.N. Sasikala, the close confidant of late Chief Minister Jayalalithaa, particularly her husband M. Natarajan, were seen prominently at the funeral on Tuesday.

Almost all the family members — Ms. Sasikala’s sister-in-law J. Ilavarasi; the latter’s son and the AIADMK’s new power centre, Vivek; his sister Priya; son of Ms. Sasikala’s brother Sundaravadanan, Dr. Venkatesh, who once headed the party’s youth forum; son of another of Ms. Sasikala’s brothers Vinodhagan, V. Mahadevan; the husband of Sundaravadanan’s daughter Prabha, Dr. Sivakumar; besides Ms. Sasikala’s sister’s son, V. Baskaran — were seen standing around the late CM’s body at Rajaji Hall.

However, V.N. Sudhagaran, Jayalalithaa’s erstwhile foster son, and his elder brother T.T.V. Dinakaran, were not present.

“We are not able to understand how they were allowed to be present during the funeral because only Ms. Sasikala, who was expelled along with 12 of her family members, was readmitted into the party,” observed a senior AIADMK leader.

Ms. Jayalalithaa expelled Ms. Sasikala and others from the party on December 19, 2011. She also sent Ms. Sasikala out from her Poes Garden residence.

This was after allegations emerged that the family was planning a takeover of the party. But on March 28, 2012, Ms. Sasikala declared that she had snapped all ties with all those who had indulged in activities inimical to Ms. Jayalalithaa interests.

“What those who claimed to be my relatives and friends have done against ‘akka’ [elder sister] is an unforgivable betrayal. Irrespective of who they are, such persons are unwanted people to me too,” Ms. Sasikala said in a statement highlighted by the party’s Jaya Plus television channel.

Ms. Jayalalithaa said she accepted her friend’s explanation and revoked the disciplinary action against her. But the other relatives were not seen in party meetings.

On Tuesday, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi met newly sworn-in Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam and Ms. Sasikala, the local leaders accompanying them made it a point to introduce them to Mr. Natarajan.

A controversial figure for over two decades, he was someone who Jayalalithaa vocally disapproved of. She often said he had no connection with the party and none should be in touch with him.

DMK upset with Rahul

Meanwhile, some DMK functionaries were unhappy that Mr. Gandhi did not call on DMK president M. Karunanidhi, who is now in hospital.

“Let him [Mr. Gandhi] meet anyone. But what prevents him from meeting our leader, who is in an intensive care unit? He did not bother to call on him when he visited Apollo Hospitals [when Ms. Jayalalithaa was admitted there]. We do not know what the Congress leadership is up to,” said a DMK leader.

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