Stirring a hornet’s nest in the ruling AIADMK, Tamil Nadu minister Sellur K Raju today praised deposed party chief V K Sasikala saying she had played a key role in ensuring continuance of the party government. “Chinamma (Sasikala) is responsible for AIADMK remaining in power.. there is no second opinion about it,” he told reporters in Madurai.
Raju made the comments at a time when Sasikala, serving a four-year term in a Bengaluru prison in a disproportionate assets case, has obtained five-day emergency parole and is staying in Chennai in view of the hospitalisation of her husband M Natarajan, who had undergone liver and kidney transplants. The minister’s remarks are expected to cause a ripple in the ruling camp which had last month removed Sasikala and her clan, including her deputy T T V Dhinakaran, from the party.
A senior party leader from southern Tamil Nadu, Raju was apparently referring to Sasikala guiding the party after the demise of late chief minister Jayalalithaa in December last year. Raju had last month contradicted the claims of two of his cabinet colleagues that no one was allowed to see Jayalalithaa during her hospitalisation last year.
After senior leader O Panneerselvam revolted against her leadership and her conviction in the DA case in February last, Sasikala had kept her flock together in a resort near here and ensured election of Palaniswami as the AIADMK legislature party leader. However, the camps led by Palaniswami and Panneerselvam later merged and convened a General Council meeting last month which sacked Sasikala as the interim general secretary.
Raju said since he was a minister he had to be restrained in his comments. His views should not affect the steps being taken by Palaniswami and Panneerselvam at the helm of the government and the party, he said. On the dengue situation in the state, the cooperation minister said the present government was taking rapid action to control the spread of the fever cases.
The minister’s comment hailing Sasikala had been greeted with enthusiasm in her camp. Sasikala and Dhinakaran loyalist C R Saraswathi lauded Raju for his remarks endorsing the jailed leader’s role and dramatically claimed that, “the sleeper cells there are coming out one by one.”
“Sleeper cell,” is a phrase often used by Dhinakaran, who has been seeking to oust Palaniswami from power, in the recent past to claim that he had supporters in the ruling camp and they woud rally behind him at the right time. Saraswathi, a yesteryear actress and party spokesperson, asked how “their” conscience was not pricking them after seeing “Chinnamma” on televison going to hospital, an apparent reference to those in the Palaniswami camp.
Naturally those in the rival camp will be seized of the “thought that the government was put in place by Chinamma,” she told reporters in Chennai. Only Sasikala and Dhinakaran will be able to steer the party and cadres were clear about that, she claimed. Meanwhile, Sasikala, who arrived in Chennai on October 6, visited her husband for the second day at the Gleneagles Global Health City Hospital around noon today.
She was greeted by scores of party men in several locations as she travelled by a car to the hospital. Sasikala was apprised on the health condition of Natarajan by doctors at the hospital. She spent a little over two hours there, sources said. She had been granted parole with tough conditions, including one that said she should not be involved in political or any other public activity or take part in party activities.