The final confirmation of the news that AIADMK supremo J Jayalalithaa had passed away started trickling down in Tamil Nadu around 11.30 pm on Monday. While that ushered in a sense of shock and grief, a parallel track of developments that happened soon after is now the subject of intense scrutiny across the state. Many in the state are asking why there was a need for such a quick swearing in, especially since Jayalalithaa had been in hospital for 75 days.
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The swearing in ceremony of O Panneerselvam as the chief minister of the state happened by 1.30 am on Tuesday, just two hours after Amma’s death being announced. Around the same time Amma’s old time aide and friend Sasikala also emerged from the shadows with her family, many say orchestrating what was arguably one of the swiftest transfers of power between two chief ministers anywhere in the country. Things happened so fast that many of the mourners did not even realise that the state was now under a new chief minister.
It is still not clear who would become heir to Jayalalithaa’s legacy. However, the developments indicate that the ruling party may be torn into two factions tussling for control. Panneerselvam was voted chief of the parliamentary party. However, the position of party general secretary is still vacant and there are reports that Sasikala might have her eyes on this post. Her family too has come back into the limelight.
Incidentally, Sasikala was thrown out of Jayalalithaa’s home in 2012 for being in touch with her family who Amma thought was working against her. Reports suggest posters of Sasikala’s husband M Natarajan have started emerging in the state after he took centrestage with his wife in the hours long vigil with Jayalalithaa’s body at Rajaji Hall. Natarajan has said in a TV interview recently that he will move forward with MGR and Jayalalithaa’s legacy.
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Even Sasikala’s brother Dhivaharan is active behind the scenes and is understood to be masterminding Sasikala’s takeover of a large faction of the elected MLAs to control power in the Assembly and the government. Other members of Sasikala’s family were seen laying sandalwood in Jayalalithaa’s casket just before the body was lowered into the earth.
Meanwhile, Panneerselvam has remained tight-lipped about his swift swearing in ceremony and it seems that there is a divide emerging behind the scenes already.