Home / Politics / Policy /  AIADMK chorus for Sasikala as Tamil Nadu chief minister grows louder

Chennai: The All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) looks set to install its new general secretary V.K. Sasikala as the Tamil Nadu chief minister, a series of developments in the last few weeks pointing to an imminent shift in administrative power.

Sasikala, a close friend and confidante of J. Jayalalithaa, took charge as general secretary of the AIADMK on Saturday, three weeks after senior functionaries of the party started urging ‘Chinnamma’—Tamil for mother’s little sister, as she is known among her supporters—to fill the place “left vacant by Amma" (Jayalalithaa).

Two days after she took over as the head of the party, senior AIADMK member and deputy speaker of Lok Sabha M. Thambidurai said on Monday, “The unfinished tasks of the party and the government as expected by the Purathchi Thalaivi Amma will be completed only when the leadership of the party and the government are in the hands of one person."

His statement added: “I emphatically request that respected Chinnamma has to immediately take over the leadership of the government as the chief minister of Tamil Nadu."

The statement has put pressure on Jayalalithaa’s successor O. Paneerselvam, who is expected to make way for Chinnamma to head the government.

Just a few hours after Thambidurai’s statement was published on the AIADMK’s official Twitter handle, all cabinet ministers held discussions at Veda Nilayam, Poes Garden, the official residence of Jayalalithaa, which remains the power centre for the ruling party as Sasikala continues to stay there.

Jayalalithaa’s trusted lieutenant Panneeerselvam took charge as the chief minister just two hours after her death on 5 December.

Since then, the projection of Sasikala as heir apparent has been perfectly stage-managed and evidently engineered, said observers.

“She might script it as a responsibility entrusted on her. But the pressure they are mounting on Paneerselvam may misfire for the AIADMK party," said a DMK senior politician, who did not wish to be named.

Earlier on 18 December, revenue minister R.B. Udhayakumar said that Sasikala should fight byelections from RK Nagar —Jayalalithaa’s assembly constituency notified as vacant—and assume responsibility as chief minister.

Meanwhile, opposition Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) leader M.K. Stalin accused Thambidurai of “sycophancy", saying he has “abandoned the democratic ethos".

“If Thambidurai is in a situation that warranted him to demonstrate his loyalty to AIADMK, let him resign from his post of the Lok Sabha Deputy Speaker and give as many statements as he desires," said Stalin.

In what could be seen as pressure from the opposition camp, Stalin added that governor Ch. Vidyasagar Rao should ask Panneerselvam “to prove his majority on the floor of the House".

“Some AIADMK members are in fact using Sasikala as a buffer against Panneerselvam who seems to have garnered support from the Centre," added the senior politician quoted anonymously.

There was speculation that the Centre put pressure on the state government to elect Panneerselvam as chief minister immediately after Jayalalithaa’s death, said the AIADMK leader aware of the matter said, on the condition of anonymity.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has denied the speculation. Union minister M. Venkaiah Naidu told reporters on Tuesday in Chennai, “There was no interference by the BJP in Panneerselvam’s appointment as the chief minister. He was appointed based on the request made by the MLAs to the governor."

Naidu rushed to Apollo hospital in Chennai, where Jayalalithaa had been admitted, on 5 December evening, camped there during the party’s last-minute crucial administrative discussions, and stayed through the funeral the following day.

In spite of these recent developments, the ruling party seems to have survived the most crucial last few weeks without any rift. Analysts said that the next course of action would be challenging.

“Their unity is not based on any ideology or political virtue. It is the sheer interest to stay in power for the next four- an-a-half years. None of them will be returned if they go to the people with elections," said Ramu Manivannan, head of the department of politics and public administration of Madras University.

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