V K Sasikala took over the reins of Tamil Nadu’s ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) as its general secretary on Saturday. She garlanded AIADMK founder M G Ramachandran’s statue amid slogans praising her before entering the party office to hold discussions with senior functionaries. A close aide of late chief minister J Jayalalithaa, Sasikala, 62, signed registers and documents to mark her elevation and then addressed the party leaders. The media were kept away from the function while the party mouthpiece, Jaya TV (Plus), telecast her speech live.
Sasikala began the 15-minute address by reminding the audience of Jayalalithaa’s dream of retaining AIADMK’s rule in the state for 100 years. She recalled her 33-year association with Jayalalithaa and thousands of meetings she accompanied her Akka (elder sister) to.
Sasikala, known as Chinnamma (younger amma), said that Jayalalithaa’s demise on December 5 was a bolt of lightning while heaping praise on the late CM. “For Amma (Jayalalithaa), the party was her life and everything. But for me, she was my life,” she said in her first public speech despite a three-decade-long association with Jayalalithaa.
Sasikala kept wiping her tears throughout the speech. She said that she never imagined “such a thing” — Jayalalithaa’s death. “I strongly believed that she would survive. There were doctors from AIIMS (in Delhi) and London to attend to her,’’ she said.
“But God took away his favourite daughter days before we were to shift her back to Poes Garden (Jayalalithaa’s residence).’’
Sasikala said that she had spent her life looking after Amma. “For the last 33 years, since I was 29, I had been with her. I lived the life always thinking about her; whether Akka had gone to the Fort (the state Secretariat), whether she had eaten.’’
She assured that AIADMK will always be a party of the people. She underlined the importance of the AIADMK’s cadres. “We can see flowers. We can see fruits. We can see leaves too, but we cannot see roots. Our cadres are the roots,’’ Sasikala said in her written speech.
Sasikala appeared in a olive green saree for her first public appearance to assume the responsibility.
Up next, travel TN to meet cadres
Chennai: V K Sasikala, the new AIADMK general secretary, is likely to embark upon a state-wide tour after the Pongal festival on January 14 to garner support from party functionaries and cadres across Tamil Nadu.
A party leader said that she is planning to mostly hold closed-door meetings with party cadres. “She will organise programmes in many districts — she would start events by releasing portraits of Amma and meeting local leaders…. Each meeting will have a maximum of 3,000 attendants,’’ the leader said on condition of anonymity.
Another leader said that the tour is not necessarily to contest elections or to become the chief minister. “She wants to organise the party,” the leader said. “She is familiar with almost all second-level leaders but she is anxious about how the larger public and followers of Amma will accept her. That may be the primary reason for the tour.” Reports about the tour coincided with her elevation to the party chief’s post.