Chennai: Is AIADMK General Secretary VK Sasikala preparing to remove O Panneerselvam from chief minister’s post and take charge? Speculations are rife in Tamil Nadu that Sasikala could take over the command soon. A decision in this regard is expected to be taken in the crucial AIADMK meeting scheduled to be held on Sunday (February 5).
The speculations have been fuelled by the untimely shunting out of several bureaucrats considered close to O Panneerselvam. Among others, former bureaucrat Sheela Balakrishnan, who was advisor to Jayalalithaa, has also resigned, reportedly because she was miffed over being ignored by the new dispensation. Among others who were asked to resign are CS Rama Mohan Rao, CM’s Secretaries KN Venkataraman and Ramalingam.
Sasikala’s supporters argue that Sasikala had been Jayalalithaa or Amma’s “aide, sister, friend and confidante” for 30 years. A senior party functionary requesting anonymity said, “Go back in history and make your own inference if Amma’s loyalists and people will accept her (Sasikala).”
He recalled Jayalalithaa expelling Sasikala twice from the party, once in 1996 after the AIADMK’s electoral drubbing and in 2011, months after the party wrested power again from Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK). Such factors had cast a shadow on her as a potential choice to lead the party, he said.
He said Amma herself had announced in 1996 that she was distancing herself from Sasikala and her family to respect the wishes of partymen. Sasikala’s expulsion came against the background of allegations of corruption during the 1991-96 AIADMK regime. The DMK government had arrested Jayalalitha and Sasikala and filed cases against them.
It was also in deference to a public perception that AIADMK was routed in the 1996 Assembly polls only because of Jayalalithaa’s association with Sasikala and her kin. In particular, the extravagant wedding of Jayalalithaa’s foster son VN Sudhakaran, since disowned, in 1995 as among the reasons for her expulsion.
On December 19, 2011, Sasikala, her husband M Natarajan, and 12 others who were their close relatives were expelled from the primary membership of the party. Sasikala, who was staying with Jayalalithaa in her Poes Garden residence was also made to move out.
However, on both instances, the expulsion was revoked in a matter of months and Sasikala made a comeback winning back the trust of Amma. Called ‘Chinnamma,’ (younger Amma) by her supporters she undoubtedly wielded significant clout in the party and continues to do so.
Political analyst Gnani Shankaran said that people knew Sasikala was a “power centre” in AIADMK even while Jayalalithaa was alive.