Adding fuel to the simmering fire in Tamil Nadu politics, former Speaker of the state assembly and one of the founding members of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) PH Pandian made shocking allegations about J Jayalalithaa's death and even questioned the elevation of VK Sasikala on Wednesday.
On a day when O Panneerselvam, who took on the mantle of chief minister after Jayalalithaa's death, revealed he was forced to quit office by Sasikala and her supporters, Pandian made several explosive remarks.
Mincing no words, he said the circumstances of Jayalalithaa's death were unnatural and haven't been fully disclosed to the public. As he went on to recount a story of an old woman being poisoned by her doctors, reporters asked him if he was insinuating such a theory behind Jayalalithaa's demise. His reply was brief and cryptic: "Wait and watch."
For the 74 days during her hospitalisation, Pandian said he wasn't allowed to meet Jayalalithaa even once. "The hospital may cite the patient's right of privacy, but no one at home can take this defence," he added.
But the most memorable was his description of the scenes on the day Jayalalithaa was declared dead.
"I found Sasikala wearing a jacket of James Bond and leading a procession of her family on the corridors. They had no tears and no wails," Pandian was quoted as saying by The Times of India.
He went on to slam Sasikala's sudden elevation to the position of General Secretary of the AIADMK, saying it was a bewildering development, given Jayalalithaa herself had not even given the role of a councillor to her trusted aide of over 30 years during her lifetime.
The process by which Sasikala was made a top brass in the AIADMK was against the rules of the party, he said.
"Only the cadre could elect a general secretary of the party as per bylaws framed in 1972 when the party was floated. Sasikala is unfit to become the general secretary and has no authority to appoint functionaries or allot two leaves symbol," Pandian clarified.
In spite of their fabled closeness, Jayalalithaa, fondly called Amma, and Sasikala, known as Chinnamma or Junior Amma, had been through tempestuous phases — in 2011 for instance, when Sasikala was allegedly plotting a replacement for her mentor were she to be convicted in the disproportionate assets case and forced out of the CM's chair.
Sasikala's extended family — popularly referred to as the Mannargudi Mafia for the string of corruption cases against them — were also accused of usurping Jayalalithaa's goodwill. Matters came to such a head that Amma banished Sasikala from the party, but the latter made her way back into the AIADMK fold after publicly disowning her family and pledging a renewed allegiance to her leader.
Since Jayalalithaa's death, Sasikala has not only taken over the running of the late CM's Poes Garden home in Chennai but also steadily made her way up the political ladder, first by becoming the General Secretary of the party, then by edging closer to the CM's office after allegedly arm-twisting Panneerselvam to vacate it.
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