For V K Sasikala, election as the AIADMK Legislature Party leader to pave her way to become the Chief Minister, marks continuance of the legacy of late Jayalalithaa who also held the two posts, allowing her to wield complete control over the party and the government. 62-year-old Sasikala, shadow of Jayalalithaa for over three decades, was always considered a power centre and backroom player.
Sasikala, also known as ‘Chinamma’, emerged the party’s numero uno when she was elected as AIADMK General Secretary on December 31 last following Amma’s death. Today’s development marks continuance of the political legacy of Jayalalithaa and MGR, who had held both the posts of party General Secretary and Chief Minister. But it has been a roller coaster ride for her in politics as her detractors in the party had in 1996 accused her of being responsible for Jayalalithaa’s disastrous election defeat during that year.
Sasikala accompanied Jayalalithaa to prison when the latter was arrested in a disproportionate assets case. She suffered a blow when she was expelled for anti-party ctivities only to be restored in a few months five years ago by Jayalalithaa.
Amma’s demise on December 5 was seen as a personal loss for Sasikala who resided with Jayalalithaa at the latter’s house Veda Nilayam in Poes Garden, even choosing to stay away from her husband. Sasikala presence by Jayalalithaa’s side when she was hospitalised on September 22 also raised some controversies, including allegations that access to the ailing leader was not being allowed even to the late chief minister’s kin.
Sasikala belongs to the dominant Thevar community like O Panneerselvam which also is said to have played a major role in his becoming the stop-gap Chief Minister whenever Jayalalithaa had to step down and even after her death two months ago. An aspiring small-time entrepreneur offering video coverage services and allied products like video cassettes in the early 1980s, Sasikala got acquainted with Jayalalithaa in 1982 along with her husband M Natarajan through the then IAS officer VS Chandraleka.
It was Sasikala who had got video-graphed the function of Jayalalithaa while she was organising a party conference in Cuddalore in 1982. Sasikala remained a wall of support for Jayalalithaa through thick and thin over the next three decades. In her much televised 1999 interview “Rendezvous with Simi Garewal”, Jayalalithaa had said Sasikala was targeted much because of her association with her. She had described Sasikala as her “sister” who fulfilled the role of her late mother by taking care of her.
Sasikala came into the limelight when Jayalalithaa took over as Chief Minister for the first time in 1991. Jayalalithaa’s defeat in the 1996 polls was attributed to her conducting the infamous extravagant wedding of her foster son and Sasikala’s nephew VN Sudhakaran in the previous year. Sasikala was also incarcerated along with Jayalalithaa in the alleged colour TV scam in 1996.
After the AIADMK’s rout, Jayalalithaa had announced that she was severing ties with Sasikala. Again in 2011, Sasikala was expelled along with her husband Natarajan and 12 other relatives. However, on both the occasions, they settled their differences and Sasikala resumed living in Jayalalithaa’s Poes Garden residence after assuring the AIADMK chief that she would keep away from her relatives.
Besides Sudhakaran being disowned by Jayalalithaa, Sasikala’s husband and a host of other relatives also fell out of favour at Poes Garden. In early 1980s, Sasikala’s husband Natarjan was a government PRO in Cuddalore with strong moorings in Dravidian ideology.