Tamil Nadu is in a state of turmoil as the turf war between V.K Sasikala, long time aide and confidante of J.Jayalalithaa and Chief Minister O.Paneerselvam, continues to play out .With Chief Minister’s resignation for “personal reasons” and subsequent unanimous election of Sasikala as the legislative party head, we thought the stage was set for Chinamma to take the reign. However, with OPS’s shocking U turn earlier this week, the conflict has been heating up. Here is a timeline of Sasikala’s rise to power:
Sasikala was always a contentious figure, especially because of the clout and power that her family, dubbed the Mannargudi Mafia, wields. However, she has always remained by Jayalalithaa’s side even after two instances when she was expelled from the party by promising to break ties with her family and pledging her loyalty to Amma.
For the two months that Jayalalithaa was admitted to Apollo hospital in, it has now become clear that it was Sasikala calling the shots, not allowing anyone to see her. After her deterioration and death in December, there were several rumours about Sasikala family indulging in foul play. Chief Minister O.Paneerselvam confirmed that even he was not allowed to see her.
5th December 2016 - The Funeral
Nevertheless, Sasikala’s presence gained prominence during Jayalalithaa’s funeral. She and her entire family surrounded the body of the late Chief Minister kept at the Rajaji Bhavan for the public to pay their last respects. Sruthisagar Yamunan writes in The Scroll that it was a clear indication of how power within the party was shifting.
Natarajan’s presence at the funeral surprised many as it was assumed for long that he was not in Jayalalithaa’s good books. Sasikala’s relatives were out in full strength at Rajaji Hall. Seen in the front all through the day was her nephew Dr Sivakumar, who party circles said had closely monitored Jayalalithaa’s health until the very end. There was also Sasikala’s brother Dhivaharan and sister-in-law Ilavarasi.
Soon after the funeral, the media began beaming images of several AIADMK functionaries assembling at Veda Nilayam at Poes Garden, which Sasikala continues to occupy, to urge ‘Chinamma’ to lead the party.
AIADMK Party functionaries from various districts today urged Thirumathi.V.K.Sasikala to lead the party on the path shown by Honourable Amma pic.twitter.com/IkohD6r3zQ— AIADMK (@AIADMKOfficial) December 20, 2016
December 31st 2016 – Formal take over as General Secretary
By the end of the month, it was a done deal. At the party’s General Council meeting on 28th December, appropriate resolutions were passed and later handed over to Sasikala.
AIADMK adopts resolution to work under the leadership of Chinnamma.— AIADMK (@AIADMKOfficial) December 29, 2016
The Indian Express reported - the resolution was moved by party presidium chairman E Madusudanan and Panneersevlam and Edapadi Palanisamy. The resolution makes it clear that Sasikala will be formally elected as party General Secretary at a later date in keeping with the stipulations of the party constitution. Till such time she is elected, the party has appointed her to the post giving her all powers of that post
At the press meet soon after, OPS is seen here at a press conference announcing that Sasikala agreed to take over as General Secretary. Ironically he praises her for being with Jayalalithaa for 33 years and taking care of all her needs.
On 31st December, Sasikala formally took charge as the General Secretary and many of us heard her voice for the first time. Sandhya Ravishankar made an interesting observation in this article in The Hindustan Times –
Sasikala entered the AIADMK headquarters in the front passenger seat of a white Land Rover car, just as Jayalalithaa had for the last 20 years. She wore a moss green sari with a maroon border, her hair tied in a loose bun, covered by a black cloth pinned with a bow – exactly as Jayalalithaa would. Her maiden speech, delivered with a lot of tears, was strikingly familiar –the cadence and delivery too was that of Jayalalithaa’s. At a point in her speech, Sasikala said, “The AIADMK will continue to rule for another 100 years.” At this point, her right hand went up in the air with one finger skyward – a mannerism that Jayalalithaa was fond of, especially when making an emphatic point during her speeches
Chinnamma - Amma is not with us now but our party will rule here for the next 100 years.— AIADMK (@AIADMKOfficial) December 31, 2016
January 2017 First cracks appear – Jallikattu protests
Soon after, the jallikattu protests took over Tamil Nadu. But even then it was evident that Sasikala had her sights firmly set on the throne, taking credit for the Jallikattu ordinance that was passed in the Tamil Nadu Assembly following massive protests led by students in Chennai and other places in the state. At all public functions, it was Sasikala who took centre stage.
But it was during the jallikattu issue that the first sign of possible cracks were visible. Even as the Chief Minister O.Paneerselvam met with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Delhi, a delegation of MPs from Tamil Nadu sought an appoint with him separately, which was refused.
AIADMK MPs meet Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh to lift Jallikattu ban.— AIADMK (@AIADMKOfficial) January 20, 2017
After the amendment was finally passed, Sasikala was quick to take credit. She was quoted as saying – I consider Tamils’ rights and sentiments as (my) two eyes. That is why I had earlier issued a statement in support of the students and young protesters. I made the government keep up sustained efforts for conduct of jallikattu,
5th February 2017 Elected head of Legislative party
Rumours of her impending take over as Chief Minister persisted. The hints became clearer when officers close to Jayalalithaa were asked to resign. These included Sheela Balakrishnan, KN.Venkatraman and Ramalingam, Secretary to the Chief Minister. A day later, Shanta Sheela Nair who was Officer on Special Duty to the Chief Minister also resigned. On 5th February, as expected, Sasikala was elected the head of the legislative party.
A day after the announcement, a team of doctors including specialist from London, Dr.Richard Beale, addressed a press conference to provide details about Jayalalithaa’s medical condition, her treatment and events leading up to her death.
Although many raised questions about the timing of such a press conference, which was repeatedly demanded by the public and political parties since the hospitalisation back in November last year, some of the medical details were made clear by the doctors. They also categorically dispelled conspiracy theories relating to the holes seen on her cheek, visible during the funeral as well as possible poisoning or other injuries.
Honourable Amma was suffering from infection, sepsis set in, bacteria in blood subsequently attached to the heart: Dr Richard Beale .— AIADMK (@AIADMKOfficial) February 6, 2017
Bacterial infection in blood was underlying problem. Infection spread to organs, led to shortness of breath: Dr Richard— AIADMK (@AIADMKOfficial) February 6, 2017
Many took the press conference, which has come two months after the death of Jayalalithaa and one day after elevation of Sasikala within the party, with a pinch of salt.
The voices of dissent against Sasikala, someone with no political experience and yet enormous clout, rose. The DMK, Congress and others have criticised the move saying that although the AIADMK is well within the law to take such a step, it is an undemocratic move. Dravida Kazhagam and CPI have been hinting that BJP is attempting to gain entry into Tamil Nadu politics by creating divisions within the AIADMK.
Veeramani, Dravida Kazhagam leader said – By electing Sasikala as the legislative party head, efforts to sabotage the AIADMK have failed. CPI’s Secretary Mutharasan also said that the party welcomes the decision.
7th February 2017 OPS revolts
While many thought that it the Disproportionate Assets case would be the biggest hurdle for Sasikala, O.Paneerselvam’s dramatic revolt has virtually split the party with more and more leaders joining his faction. Despite allegations of conflict of interest, Sasikala remains defiant and determined. During her first television interview to News18 Tamil, she said that OPS had betrayed the party and denied allegations that he was forced to resign.
On 9th February, she along with ministers and her nephew TTV Dinakaran met the Governor Vidyasagar Rao, staking claim to form the government.
தலைமைக் கழக செய்தி. pic.twitter.com/WLWmMXaXNw— AIADMK (@AIADMKOfficial) February 9, 2017
All eyes are now on the Governor. While it is seen as a major setback that Sasikala has not been sworn in as yet, the situation continues to remain fluid –- Will Sasikala prevail or will OPS get the numbers?