POLITICS

The Election Of Sasikala Is A Message To Both BJP And Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam

Dissent remains a banned word in the AIADMK.

29/12/2016 2:49 PM IST | Updated 29/12/2016 2:52 PM IST
IANS

Amma is dead. Long live Chinnamma.

To make it appear that VK Sasikala is Jayalalithaa's chosen one, posters and hoardings showing the two together, with a photoshopped bouquet, came up as soon as the AIADMK general council passed a resolution appointing Sasikala as the interim general secretary. And to lend sanctity to the event, Jayalalithaa's portrait was placed on the chair she used to sit on while the resolutions were passed.

In the backdrop of intrigue and behind-the-scenes political moves since 5 December, the day Jayalalithaa passed away, this is nothing short of a palace coup. Sasikala has ensured every one of the 2700 general council members fell in line. Dissent remains a banned word in the AIADMK.

Beneath of veneer of normalcy, those involved in the election process knew a cat and mouse game was being played out.

So the more things change, the more they remain the same. Veda Nilayam in Poes Garden will continue to remain the power centre for Tamil Nadu's ruling party.

Beneath of veneer of normalcy, those involved in the election process knew a cat and mouse game was being played out. Faced with no alternative, all MLAs, MPs and district secretaries who form the power matrix of the AIADMK had begged Sasikala with folded hands to take over. Someone who bore the imprint of the Amma name also seemed the best bet to lead the party at this stage.

So the more things change, the more they remain the same. Veda Nilayam in Poes Garden will continue to remain the power centre for Tamil Nadu's ruling party.

But the cadre was not too happy with the choice. Disgruntled voices pointed out, away from the glare of TV cameras, how the person who was thrown out of Poes Garden five years ago, was being given the party. They are not happy with Sasikala's family waiting in the wings to wield power in Tamil Nadu.

Add to that WhatsApp forwards that emanate from unknown sources raising doubts about circumstances in which Jayalalithaa died. That too cast a shadow over Sasikala since she was the former CM's caretaker. Now with the Madras High court also expressing similar doubts, this will become a permanent arrow to target Sasikala with.

But more than anything else, the election of Sasikala is a message to the BJP, that many suspect, was not too happy with her claim to the throne. Sources say the fear in the BJP is that she could emerge as a Jayalalithaa-like powerful figure. Which is why the BJP gave its backing to chief minister O Panneerselvam.

But by making Panneerselvam carry the resolution to Poes Garden, Sasikala and the anti-CM gang in the AIADMK have shown him his place. That in the present party power structure, he will have to play second fiddle to Poes Garden.

IANS

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.

But now with one hurdle crossed, there is no guarantee Sasikala would not try to move to Fort St George, the Tamil Nadu State Secretariat. RK Nagar constituency, which Jayalalithaa represented, will see a bypoll soon and Sasikala would be tempted to throw her hat in the ring, clearing the decks for her election as legislature party leader.

However, those close to her have indicated that she is loathe to contest till the sword of the Supreme court verdict in the Disproportionate Assets case is off her head. "Jayalalithaa got into legal trouble thrice. Sasikala wants to play it safe so that she is not put into any kind of trouble,'' says a camp follower.

Secondly, the pressure mounted by the IT raids in the last two weeks on the office of the chief secretary and other contractors was also interpreted as a message to Poes Garden. The outburst by the former chief secretary Ramamohana Rao against the Centre and Panneerselvam, seemed a script dictated by the Sasikala camp.

Contrary to speculation that Sasikala could do a Sonia Gandhi version of the "inner voice", Chinnamma did not spring a surprise. For now, Sasikala would focus on strengthening herself in the party, reaching out to those who have apprehensions about her.

When Sasikala steps into the AIADMK headquarters in Royapettah in Chennai in the new year, it will be the first time a large AIADMK gathering and the rest of Tamil Nadu on TV, will get to hear Sasikala.

Now that she has the party behind her, the idea also is to build up Sasikala as someone who understands Tamil Nadu, the politics of the state, the welfare agenda and the AIADMK ethos. Her camp is aware that people have to know Sasikala, the person and not just as the shadow and 'soul sister' of Jayalalithaa. A digital media brand building exercise could well be unleashed after she formally takes over general secretary on 2 January.

A glimpse of that was provided by the AIADMK twitter handle which put out the portion of Jayalalithaa's interview with Simi Garewal in which she speaks about Sasikala having taken her mother's place in her life.

PTI

When Sasikala steps into the AIADMK headquarters in Royapettah in Chennai in the new year, it will be the first time a large AIADMK gathering and the rest of Tamil Nadu on TV, will get to hear Sasikala. Contrary to public perception that she is a political novice, the fact is that Sasikala has a firm grip over the AIADMK party apparatus.

Sources say that during the last few months of Jayalalithaa's reign, many of the party decisions were being taken by Sasikala because of the CM's poor health. She had a say in who got the tickets to fight the 2016 assembly elections on the AIADMK ticket, even though she operated behind the scenes from Poes Garden. Frankly, only a formal takeover has happened now.

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