On December 31 for the first time, we heard Sasikala’s voice. At the party general council, she was elected as the general secretary, effectively taking over the AIADMK after the demise of late Chief Minister Jayalalithaa.
Despite a palpable sense of anger against Sasikala, or Chinnamma, as she is being called by the party, she has now emerged as one of the most powerful figures in Tamil Nadu as the voices of support for her to take over as Chief Minister from O. Panneerselvam grow louder.
Although there were rumours about this were abound just days after Jayalalithaa’s demise, it was the deputy speaker Thambidurai’s public letter to Sasikala, emphatically urging her to take charge of the government, which has now brought the issue to public discourse.
Actor Srikanth, Karan & Music Director Srikanth Deva met Chinnamma today & wished Chinnamma for becoming General Secretary of AIADMK. pic.twitter.com/ez4f8IB9BA— AIADMK (@AIADMKOfficial) January 6, 2017
In an interaction with the press soon after, Thambidurai justified the statement and said –
Press Release by Dr. M. Thambi Durai, Propanda Secretary of the AIADMK Party & Deputy Speaker of Lok Sabha. pic.twitter.com/EscoLFH9sq— AIADMK (@AIADMKOfficial) January 2, 2017
The leadership of the party and the government must be the same. As a party, we work towards welfare of people, make certain promises and thus form the government. It is my opinion that only the leader of the party can effectively function as the head of the government. It is in this context that I have given a statement urging Chinamma to take over as Chief Minister in order to continue the work of Puratchi Thalaivi Amma, be it in the party or the government.
According to NDTV, the move, although anticipated, may rock the boat.
The AIADMK has never been shy about its all-out, unquestioning, sycophantic loyalty to one main leader. Jayalalithaa's ministers habitually prostrated her at official functions, a practice she did not seek to curtail. So the new lobbying for a change in Chief Minister is generating significant status anxiety at a time when there are questions about how united the party will remain after the loss of Jayalalithaa
R.Ramasubramanian writes in The Wire, that the anger against Sasikala among common people is almost unprecedented. Yet party functionaries feel they are left with no choice as she is the only person who can keep the party from splitting. The article also quotes lawyer and political analyst Ravinthran Duraisamy as saying –
The CM’s post cannot be easily snatched from him. If he wants to give it to Sasikala, it’s well and good. But if he refuses to vacate, then it’s not an easy thing to dislodge him because as CM, he has constitutional protection and the entire security apparatus as his gauntlet. Probably he may want to continue as CM with the support of Sasikala. But how long he will enjoy her backing is a million dollar question,
However, DMK leader M.K. Stalin criticised this move and said that on the night that the former Chief Minister passed away, the AIADMK MLAs conducted a meeting and unanimously voted for O. Panneerselvam to become the Chief Minister; this was communicated to the Governor also.
It is amusing that there are calls from some ministers like Honourable Deputy Speaker Thambidurai for Sasikala to take over as Chief Minister. I view this as dishonour to the post of the Chief Minister. This is a move meant to flout a legal process. It is shameful that Thambidurai has chosen to write this statement of his official letter pad as Deputy Speaker of the Parliament. I call on the Governor to take appropriate action on this issue. Not only that, the situation demands that the governor must call for an assembly session to test who has the confidence of the people as Chief Minister.
There seems to be very little opposition from within the party leadership at this point. High profile leader and spokesperson, Nanjil Sampath, had quit on 3rd January saying that he did not want to continue public life after the demise of Amma. In an interview to Sun News, Sampath said that he did not know Sasikala and had no interaction with her and was therefore unable to say if she is “qualified to be the leader.”
However, four days later, The News Minute reported that he was back, all praises for Sasikala.
She has won the hearts of the party people in the way she has interacted with them. She has the physical strength and enthusiasm to function in the place of Amma. She will prove the party's glory in future.
In an interview to The Tamil Hindu’s Ganesh, Sampath said that any doubts among party workers will be dispelled.
Till she took a post, Sasikala has never participated in politics. However, her speech at the party headquarters has changed the situation among party workers. She is currently meeting district level leaders every morning and evening. She is trying to understand the problems and discussing with them about possible solutions. Her actions are instilling confidence.
According to this report in The Tamil Hindu, Sasikala has been holding meetings for several days with leaders from various districts and urged them to ensure that all government schemes reach distressed farmers given the drought. The report noted that although crowds were large during Sasikala’s speech accepting the post of the General Secretary, they have considerably thinned down.
In another twist to the story, Jayalalithaa’s niece Deepa, who was denied entry to Apollo Hospital and subsequently the last rites of her aunt, has said that she would like to work for the welfare of the people and also demanded that the treatment given to Jayalalithaa be made public. Deepa who bears a physical resemblance to Jayalalithaa is now making news.
Chinnamma today met District level party functionaries at Party Head Quarters. pic.twitter.com/HgQ5SyreiX— AIADMK (@AIADMKOfficial) January 4, 2017
Dina Thanti reported that several AIADMK party workers have been regularly visiting Deepa at her residence in T.Nagar, Chennai. As party workers urged her to enter politics, she has assured them that she will give her decision soon.
I am preparing myself to join politics as this is what the people want-Deepa Jayakumar, Former TN CM Jayalalithaa's niece pic.twitter.com/8CnE51XfBt— ANI (@ANI_news) January 7, 2017
In an interview to the paper, she also said that no leadership of the ADMK had been in touch with her. When asked if she considers herself to be the political heir of Jayalalithaa, she said that although she has not said it, many party workers feel it is so. Vikatan TV spoke to people from Jayalalithaa’s R.K Nagar constituency in Chennai and it is surprising to see the opposition to Sasikala. Many people said that they would rather see O. Panneerselvam continue as Chief Minister or vote for Deepa.
The Central Government may not openly admit to their interest in Tamil Nadu politics. However, many are seeing the raids on former Chief Secretary Rama Mohan Rao as a veiled attack on Sasikala. O. Panneerselvam has been seen by many as closer to the BJP, but lacking the political ability to put up any resistance to Sasikala. According to Pramod Kumar in The First Post, OPS is likely to give in easily:
With him will also go the plans of the BJP central leadership to use him as a proxy to push its agenda. Reportedly, Panneerselvan had been promised all support to continue with Jaya’s rule by none other than Prime Minister Modi himself and that he had been advised to be in touch with the bureaucracy in Delhi.
Predicting a different scenario T.S Sudhir wrote in The Huffington Post –
Sources say that Panneerselvam after his meeting with Prime minister Narendra Modi in Delhi last week, told a couple of MLAs who met him that he is here to stay. This was interpreted as bravado inspired by the PM's backing. Panneerselvam reportedly said that while Sasikala could become general secretary, he will be CM till 2021. This was because in the past, both MG Ramachandran and Jayalalithaa have occupied both posts - general secretary and CM
Will the AIADMK maintain its stronghold given the unpopularity of its new leader or will Sasikala establish herself as a leader, a certainly uphill task. The political developments are likely to play out in the coming weeks and months.
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