Controversies surrounding Sasikala after Jayalalithaa's death

Take over AIADMK mantle, leaders appeal to Sasikala

New leader emerges: Posters have come up in Madurai, urging V.K. Sasikala to follow in the footsteps of Jayalalithaa.

New leader emerges: Posters have come up in Madurai, urging V.K. Sasikala to follow in the footsteps of Jayalalithaa.  

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Party seniors make beeline for Poes Garden, want her as general secretary

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam, senior AIADMK Ministers and party functionaries met V.K. Sasikala, friend of late Chief Minister Jayalalithaa, at Poes Garden here and appealed to her to take over the leadership of the party.

Mr. 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.”

The path to electing her as the general secretary of the AIADMK seems to have been unequivocally cleared, as those who were perceived to be a challenge to her, also closed ranks behind her.

Nearly all the top leaders, including party presidium chairman E. Madhusudhanan and several former and current Ministers, made a beeline for the Poes Garden residence of Jayalalithaa, where Ms. Sasikala resides. After paying homage to a framed picture of the former Chief Minister, top leaders met Ms. Sasikala and urged her to take up the post of general secretary of the party.

By all accounts, while she listened to them patiently, she did not respond to their request.

‘Intelligence to lead’

“Everyone in the party prefers Chinnamma (as they have come to refer to Ms. Sasikala) 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 K.A. Sengottaiyan, who, a day earlier, issued a statement quelling speculation that he might raise a banner of revolt.

Lok Sabha Deputy Speaker M. Thambidurai said Ms. Sasikala should break her silence and come forward to lead the party. “She was with Amma since she took over the reins of the party and possesses the intelligence and skill to lead the party,” he added.

Jayalalithaa had often referred to Ms. Sasikala as a “sister.”

Mr. Madhusudhanan, former Ministers B. Valarmathi and Gokula Indira and former Wakf Board Chairperson Tamilmagan Hussain, who were in attendance, also joined the group in requesting her to lead the party. Televised on the party’s channel Jaya Plus TV, the team members were seen encircling Ms. Sasikala in the portico of the Poes Garden residence.

Ms. Sasikala was first introduced to Jayalalithaa by former IAS officer V. Chandralekha. Her husband M. Natarajan was Public Relations Officer (PRO) at Cuddalore where Ms. Chandralekha was the collector. Ms Sasikala ran a video shop in Alwarpet and even Jayalalithaa’s mentor MGR had encouraged their friendship as he had felt it would benefit her. At one point Ms. 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 Mr. Natarajan.

Strains over family

Their relationship weathered many storms and not the least of them ensued when Jayalalithaa adopted Ms. Sasikala’s nephew V.N. Sudhakaran and conducted his wedding ostentatiously. This was among the reasons that led to the defeat of the AIADMK government in 1996. Jayalalithaa sent her out of Poes Garden twice, but readmitted her after Ms. Sasikala issued an apology and promised to sever all ties with her family members. However, they all emerged to stand beside the body of Jayalalithaa with Ms. Sasikala while it was kept in state at the Rajaji Hall. They were spotted with her, accompanying her to the funeral, and later, even on Friday, to pay homage at the memorial.

Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam along with senior colleagues once again met Ms Sasikala before presiding over the first cabinet meeting at the secretariat on Saturday, sending out a strong message within the party about who the leader was. The Chief Minister was followed by almost all senior party functionaries, MLAs and MPs, who met her and expressed solidarity with her leadership.

Saturday’s developments began with former minister C. Ponnaiyan briefing media about the leadership at the party headquarters. “There is no need to speculate about the next party chief. AIADMK is like a banyan tree and we will take a decision,” he said.

Asked specifically if Ms. Sasikala would take over the party, he said: “She is an important member of the AIADMK and there is nothing that stops senior members of the party from seeing her.” However, only a few hours later, senior leaders swore their allegiance to her, making it clear that their choice was Chinnamma.

Rallying point

Former Chennai Mayor Saidai S. Duraisamy said Ms Sasikala, who had a clear idea of men and matters in the AIADMK after working closely with Amma for over three decades, alone could be a rallying point when the party was going through a crisis.

“When Amma was in hospital, the enemies of the party predicted that its future would be doomed. We need to strengthen the organisation and only Chinnamma, acceptable to all sections of the party, can keep the party together,” said Mr Duraisamy. He added that while Ms. Sasikala did not make known her decision to party members that day, she gave everyone a patient hearing, listening to everything that every single person had to say.

Law Minister C.Ve. Shanmugam said, “After Amma, Chinnamma is everything to party leaders and cadres alike. She should lead the party and we are keenly waiting for the day she will become the general secretary of the party,” he said.

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Printable version | Jan 21, 2020 11:33:47 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/Take-over-AIADMK-mantle-leaders-appeal-to-Sasikala/article16791150.ece

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