Tamil Nadu was once again in a state of confusion due to several developments pertaining to the position of the Chief Minister.
The internal battle within the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam came out in the open on February 7 when O. Panneerselvam, successor of the late Chief Minister Jayalalithaa Jayaram announced that he was forced to hand over his resignation. He alleged that Jayalalithaa’s former aide Sasikala Natarajan had created a rift within the party.
Panneerselvam’s move has gained a considerable amount of backing from party stalwarts, and political analysts in the State predict that the AIADMK would be further weakened due to the unexpected developments last week.
Ever since Jayalalithaa passed away, Tamil Nadu’s political environment has been fragile. Though Panneerselvam was appointed Chief Minister, Sasikala’s rise to prominence within the party created a gradual split which has now come to light.
Sasikala was Jayalalithaa’s close aide for years. In fact, both Jayalalithaa, referred to as Amma, and Sasikala were accused of amassing wealth, an issue which resulted in Jayalalithaa being asked to step down as Chief Minister in 2001 and then in 2014.
On both occasions, it was Panneerselvam who filled in for her.
Growth of Sasikala
Today, Sasikala, now known as Sinnamma, is the General Secretary of the AIADMK . Sasikala’s relationship with the former Chief Minister has been a much talked about and scrutinized affair.
Sasikala first met Jayalalithaa in the 1980s when the latter was the party’s Propaganda Secretary. The meeting happened through Sasikala’s husband, Natarajan who was a government servant. As the years went by Sasikala became one of the most trusted aides of Jayalalithaa.
In fact, Jayalalithaa’s rise to power also depended much on another dynamic personality, MG Ramachandran fondly referred to as MGR.
Both Jayalalithaa and MGR had shared screen space on many hit films from 1965 before the latter entered active politics in the 1970s.
Jayalalithaa’s rise to power
Jayalalithaa joined the Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (ADMK) in 1982 and became its Propaganda Secretary in 1983.
When MGR died in 1987, the ADMK split into two factions. One faction sided with MGR’s wife Janaki Ramachandran, while the other aligned with Jayalalithaa, who established the AIADMK.
There was a power struggle between Jayalalithaa and Janaki. The party was scattered.
Even though Janaki was selected as the Chief Minister in 1988, the government was dismissed by the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and President’s rule was imposed.
Jayalalithaa then contested the general election in 1989 as MGR’s heir and entered the assembly as the leader of the opposition. Eventually the ADMK and the AIADMK factions joined together as one force after Jayalalithaa took the reins.
The growth of both Jayalalithaa and Sasikala are similar. Both of them were nobodies when they entered politics and climbed the ladder using their acquaintances.
However, what is interesting to note here is that the relationship between the two ladies were not smooth all the time.
Sasikala removed from AIADMK
In 2011 Jayalalithaa removed the membership of 13 people. Sasikala and her husband were among them. Jayalalithaa accused Sasikala of working against her. Though Sasikala was reinstated in the party a few months later after a written apology, Jayalalithaa’s death sparked fresh speculations on the relationship between the two.
Several politicians, including the founder member of AIADMK, PH Pandian, expressed his doubts concerning the death of the former Chief Minister.
Panneerselvam’s revelation is all the more important considering the mystery surrounding Jayalalithaa’s death and Sasikala’s relationship with the former Chief Minister.
No political heir
The blunder that Jayalalithaa made was that she did not cultivate a successor for the party. Panneerselvam cannot be considered as a successor. He is a substitute. He was considered a mouthpiece of Jayalalithaa.
Jayalalithaa was a one-woman show and did not trust many people and made sure she was in full control. Being a woman politician was not an easy job. At one point, she was humiliated, abused and thrown out of the Assembly.
She then returned to the Tamil Nadu State Assembly as the Chief Minister. Her attitude not to trust anyone could be a result of the humiliation she had faced.
But in that process she had failed to identify a proper leadership for the party in her absence. Today we see the results.
Published in the Nation on 12-2-2017