Jayalalithaa funeral: ‘Chinnamma’ Sasikala steps on to the stage, family comes out of the cold

Multiple sources in AIADMK said there were indications that Sasikala could be elected the powerful general secretary of the ruling party.

Written by Arun Janardhanan , Nirupama Subramanian | Chennai | Updated: December 7, 2016 4:52 pm
jayalalithaa, jayalalithaa death, jayalalithaa funeral, sasikala natarajan, sasikala AIADMK, sasikala jayalalithaa, jayalalithaa dies, jayalalithaa heart attack, jayalalithaa passes away, jayalalithaa cardiac arrest, india news, indian express Sasikala at Rajaji Hall, Chennai, Tuesday. Nirmal Harindran

As they thronged the Rajaji Hall for a final glimpse of their beloved Amma, the legions of fans couldn’t help notice the woman who stood next to the body of Jayalalithaa. Sasikala Natarajan, who stood by the late AIADMK leader through thick and thin, was also the one who performed the last rites before Jayalalithaa was laid to rest Tuesday evening. Watching her through the day, a party MP couldn’t help remark that “the spotlight will now move from Amma to Chinnamma (mother’s younger sister)”.

Multiple sources in AIADMK said there were indications that Sasikala could be elected the powerful general secretary of the ruling party. Whether that happens remains to be seen, but it is clear to all that she is back at the helm, wielding clout acquired over the years owing to her proximity to Jayalalithaa.

WATCH | 5 Lesser Known Facts About Sasikala Natarajan

It was a friendship that always remained a mystery to even partymen, one that survived bitter fallouts. There was an emotional connect between the two, an AIADMK leader said of the friendship.

Also Read | Jayalalithaa passes away: Apollo to Marina, her last journey

“She stood by Jayalalithaa in her most testing times. There were allegations that Sasikala misused power to grant her family favours but her sacrifice was no less. She stayed away from her family to be with Amma,” the leader said.

Some senior leaders of the AIADMK who had a direct line with Jayalalithaa — they refused to communicate with her via Sasikala — will now have to deal with her friend.

A video cassette seller who used to record weddings, Sasikala met Jayalalithaa sometime in the late 1980s. This was the period when Jayalalithaa too felt unwanted in the AIADMK before the death of her mentor M G Ramachandran.

Read | After Jayalalithaa: Party built on image may need to start afresh

Sasikala’s husband M Natarajan, a government PRO and a DMK sympathiser, had joined MGR when he founded the party. “In a party with hardly any stalwarts, Natarajan became kingmaker, and was instrumental in the rise of Jayalalithaa,” one of the AIADMK leaders said.

Natarajan was arrested and invited the wrath of Jayalalithaa in 2012 which was followed by the ouster of Sasikala for allegedly plotting against the AIADMK leader. It is said that Sasikala kept her husband away to ensure her return to Poes Garden.

At Rajaji Hall Tuesday, Sasikala and her close relatives, who were thrown out of the party in 2012, stood next to her body. There was Ilavarasi, her sister-in-law; brother V Divakaran; Dr S Venkitesh, son of Sasikala’s brother; and, Natarajan.

Read | Jayalalithaa passes away: The burial of a believer

WATCH | J Jayalalithaa’s Life Journey

“Amma threw out 18 of her family members and pardoned only Sasikala. All of them are now back in the party,” the leader said.

After Jayalalithaa was admitted to Apollo Hospitals on September 22, Sasikala took charge. An official said: “She was the decision-maker — be it Jayalalithaa’s treatment or the final draft of a medical bulletin. The CM’s advisor Sheela Balakrishnan and DGP R K Rajendran were taking decisions, but people close to Sasikala were being consulted.”

But the presence of Jayalalithaa’s late brother Jayakumar’s son Deepak at the funeral — he was seen behind Sasikala as she performed the last rites — has triggered speculation that she and her family have co-opted him. He has never been seen in public.

Read | Jayalalithaa passes away: From canteens to seeds to pharmacy, legacy of Brand Amma

A few days ago, police prevented Deepak’s sister Deepa from visiting her aunt in hospital. Their father died in 1995, and since then the family has led a low profile life in Chennai’s T Nagar, a middle-class locality.

One observer said Deepak’s emergence by the side of Sasikala is “extremely interesting”. As a blood relation of the late Jayalalithaa, he could provide Sasikala the legitimacy to assert her claim to the leadership of the AIADMK.

There are at least a dozen senior leaders who have never been close to Sasikala. For them, there’s big worry. On Tuesday, many including A Navaneethakrishnan, a Rajya Sabha MP who used to communicate directly with Jayalalithaa, had to walk over a kilometre to reach Rajaji Hall after police denied entry to their vehicles. People accompanying them said officers who used to salute them have suddenly changed their attitude.

Also Read | Jayalalithaa funeral: Nephew attends, niece wishes she was there

 

WATCH VIDEO | O. Panneerselvam: 10 Things You Need To Know

Dr V Maitreyan, P H Pandian, K P Munusamy are among leaders who never took the Sasikala route to their leader. “When Sasikala was thrown out of the party, Pandian delivered a speech criticising her in the presence of Jayalalithaa. Munusamy too had attacked Sasikala after her ouster,” a party leader said.

Many ministers and MLAs are loyal to Sasikala because she helped them secure party tickets in elections. But two trusted aides of Jayalalithaa, Chief Minister O Panneerselvam and Lok Sabha Deputy Speaker M Thambidurai, who were never in the Sasikala camp, will not be affected in the power shift. “Sasikala cannot afford to sideline them. She needs them to run the show,” a senior leader said.

“The party has four-and-half years more in power. No senior member in the AIADMK wants a rebellion right now, and I don’t foresee that happening even if Sasikala takes over, at least for the time being, because power is a strong glue,” a party insider said. “But yes, if that means that Sasikala’s entire clan, which Jayalalithaa had banished from her inner circle, is also going to make a comeback, there could be a problem.”

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  1. H
    Hisir bap
    Dec 9, 2016 at 6:10 am
    With lots of information floating in the net around Sasikala and her mafia family and how they made from rags to riches, it will be difficult to get into that Amma Cult. People have always watched her and her extended family as opportunistic leeches and may not support her. The way in which Deepa was kicked out Poes Garden confirms this. With Amma demise AIADMK will loose all of Brahmin supporters and Sasikala taking a lead party role will only expedite AIADMK fall. If she manages to still get in, with the support of some opportunistic party folks, it will be the worst phase in the history of TN people. Violence, extortion and corruption will rule the roost. People should closely follow the party developments and take action quickly. Sasikala familys greedy dreams must not materialise.Poes Garden must be made as AMMA Museum or given to her relatives or poor or party.
    Reply
    1. A
      Akila Anand
      Dec 11, 2016 at 2:04 pm
      Hi All, lt;br/gt; It was the worst but the best decision. Electing or Selecting Sasi is the worst decision for AIADMK with out considering the interest of the party workers who always want her to be expelled out from the party even when Jaya ma was alive. lt;br/gt;It was a good decision for other party particularly BJP to strengthen the party with people wishes as People deserve Sasi strongly from their inner heart.lt;br/gt;Hope our MLA'S forgot that in our Democracy final voice than won was always people's voice. lt;br/gt;This decision will give a narrow setback to AIADMK.
      Reply
      1. A
        Amit Bhattacharjie
        Dec 7, 2016 at 10:29 am
        The lust for power is always crazy.
        Reply
        1. A
          Abdul Hakkim
          Dec 7, 2016 at 10:59 am
          God Save TN!
          Reply
          1. A
            arun
            Dec 7, 2016 at 7:27 am
            Sasikala family must be thrown from CM house we have Mr.Tambithurai, Ponnaiah and Panruti Ramachandran all the experts are there to look after the AIDMK the et should go to poor and as well as the blood relation of our CM.
            Reply
            1. J
              Jai Hind
              Dec 7, 2016 at 5:50 am
              Drama is over. ....................lt;br/gt;Now lets get back to business. Who will inherit 90 crore property, 28 kg. gold, 800kg. silver, 10000 sarees, 90 designer watches ? Talk about hypocracy. Panneerselvam shows jayas photo while taking oath. If he had kept photo while puting back in his shirt pocket it would be backside of the photo not frontside straight. These politicians are fooling people.
              Reply
              1. J
                Jai Hind
                Dec 7, 2016 at 5:57 am
                Hypocracy :lt;br/gt;Jaya born in brahmin family didnt have problem with brahmin family who raised her to be culturled, educated, and supported her in starting of film career. IN POLITICS all caste and all religion people voted for her and what did she get a burial not a funeral which is traditionally accepted by Hindus for 5000 years. What a hypocracy. These politicians want to vote for them on basis of secularism but deep down they have hate towards others and are non secular.
                Reply
                1. V
                  V.Devaraju
                  Dec 7, 2016 at 9:41 am
                  I think Sasikala may be interested in running AIADMK till such time she amazes all the wealth of Jayalalithaa. After that she will detach from the party. Panneerselvam's authority and management of the party and Government are not known to many because he was always on the shadows of Jayalalithaa. May be in a couple of months the real situation will emerge. Still such times one has to keep his fingers crossesd. If no strong leadership emerge, the party may disintegrate. Advantage BJP.
                  Reply
                  1. K
                    Khushminder Sahasi
                    Dec 7, 2016 at 4:11 am
                    Sashikala would be chosen legitimately as successor of party General Secretary.
                    Reply
                    1. S
                      Sreenivasan
                      Dec 7, 2016 at 8:32 am
                      How good is Mr O Panneer Selvam as a politician ? We all know today he was most loyal to Amma. He is very strong in his patience. Rest, whether he will gather strength from his political power as CM and size down Sasikala gang is something we will have to wait and watch. CM of TN is a powerful position in itself. If Mr Selvam realize it and use the power to control the party just as Amma did during her days, Mr Selvam will have a very long period ahead of him as the CM of TN. His people in South TN loves him as their own man. He is humble. He has to just follow the path of Amma and do nothing else for success.
                      Reply
                      1. V
                        Villain
                        Dec 7, 2016 at 6:42 am
                        Late Valmburi John mentioned, Sasikala was a spy appointed by MGR to watch Jaya.lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;
                        Reply
                        1. T
                          Tutu420
                          Dec 7, 2016 at 1:38 am
                          I heard Amma had usurped power after MGR died and now Sashikala doing the same. It seems kind of pattern there.
                          Reply
                          1. T
                            Tutu420
                            Dec 7, 2016 at 3:45 am
                            Jaya usurped throne after MGR death and now Sashi will do same. Its seems this is kind of in their DNA to usurp power. Thank God, Sashi did not kill Jaya.
                            Reply
                            1. h
                              heart1 heart2
                              Dec 7, 2016 at 3:05 pm
                              BJP needs to address two aspects in tamil nadu lt;br/gt;1.To seek a charismatic leader in Tamil nadu (like Modi was for gujarat) who is known to common people . lt;br/gt;2.To work hard and remove the communal image of the party .,and later form a coalision with other parties ( aiadmk and dmk probably wont join them)or accept them for state and central polls .lt;br/gt;If they do this BJP stands a good chance of gaining more votes in future because AIADMK loyalists would most likely vote for them in more numbers .case they dont see any good charishmatic leader and if there is confusion and division in their own party ...lt;br/gt;In such a case they would most probably turn to vote for other party But wont perhaps vote for DMK because of their loyalty .
                              Reply
                              1. h
                                heart1 heart2
                                Dec 7, 2016 at 2:55 pm
                                It is probably a wrong speculation that Sasikala would become general secretary..lt;br/gt; Madam Jayalithaa taking over from MGR it was entirely different .lt;br/gt;She had acted with MGR in so many films as a por onscreen pair and later had built a good personal rapport and won the respect of party cadres and public as a member and propaa secretary of AIADMK party.Thus people accepted her as MGRs political successor easily lt;br/gt; Sasikalas case is different She was always seen as a personal care taker of Madam Jayalalithaa more or less like a best friend and was not an iconic figure like MGR or Jayalalithaa short she was given importance because she was thought as close to Madam jayalalithaa .lt;br/gt;But In the absence of Madam Jayalaithaa it is doubtful that the party workers treat her at the same level continuously lt;br/gt;That is Even if they treat her well now ..it might not continue for a long timelt;br/gt; .she might not enjoy the same support from party workers and powerful partymen like Minsters/ district secrtaries for long time . lt;br/gt;Sasikala herself would probably be knowing all this .lt;br/gt;As of now it is most likely that she would most probably prefer to take a back seat without any post but yet have a good backdoor control over party affairs .lt;br/gt;But having said all this have to really wait and see ..What would really happen for real lt;br/gt;Only time would say what is in store .
                                Reply
                                1. A
                                  Amar
                                  Dec 7, 2016 at 7:08 am
                                  AIADMK split is inevitable....There are too many political novices. These AIADMK back-channel guys are good for back channels. But JJ maintained the public contact and articulated party's positions. Now there is no credible leader to front their "back"...It is just a matter of time before political opponents may exploit the situation like they did during MGR demise...If this government lasts its full term, then DMK and Stalin would lose their relevance in politics!
                                  Reply
                                  1. K
                                    kohli karma
                                    Dec 7, 2016 at 6:32 am
                                    First BJP should strategically get rid of Sasikala the Mannagudi mafia gang. Perhaps a case against her will do with CBIlt;br/gt;Bring someone within AIADMK to Party Secretary and BJP and AIADMK to go hand in hand in the futurelt;br/gt;BJP should get rid of Sasikala and DMK for sure
                                    Reply
                                    1. S
                                      Sankaran Krishnan
                                      Dec 7, 2016 at 3:13 am
                                      The year 2017 is crucial for the post-Jaya Regime which will decide the fate of the Party and as well of the the present govt. and let us see how the DMK plays its role in the coming months to woo the Legislators and now with Demonetization DMK will lack the horse trading methods !!!
                                      Reply
                                      1. M
                                        Manu USA
                                        Dec 7, 2016 at 5:35 am
                                        It's shame nothing else.
                                        Reply
                                        1. M
                                          Muralas
                                          Dec 7, 2016 at 4:20 am
                                          TN people cannot accept Sasikala as their leader. Even the AIADMK other ministers too cannot accept her presence in party.
                                          Reply
                                          1. P
                                            Paddy Singh
                                            Dec 7, 2016 at 8:48 am
                                            That is all Tamilnadu needs - Sashikala as Chief Minister. No wonder the country, with its choice of political leaders is what it is. Maybe be they deserve it.
                                            Reply
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