Mother of all mysteries

Mother of all mysteries

The person of the moment is, undoubtedly, Sasikala Natarajan. A Google search at 14.38 on December 13, 2016, threw up 30,00,000 results for Sasikala. For a similar search for Panneerselvam, who succeeded the much-loved Jayalalithaa as chief minister, resulted in 13,00,000 results. For the AIADMK chief, the search engine came up with 60,60,000 results.

Succession battles in a democracy cannot be won by numbers in the search engine results. These, however, do indicate a presence of sorts.

Enigma is a word often used to describe Jayalalithaa. But, so much has been written post her death on December 5, that the late chief minister is anything but a mystery now. However, what remains a mystery is the relationship that she shared with Sasikala.

They were not related by blood, were not even best friends from school days or family friends. Sasikala was not employed, but invited to stay and manage Jayalalithaa's household, and even life.

When Jayalalithaa became Amma, Sasikala became Chinnamma (younger mother). Sasikala brought her family to live and help her take care of Jayalalithaa. The family got notorious as the Mannargudi Mafia. The friendship was carried to absurd levels—they were seen identically dressed, and seated next to each other at a wedding in Sasikala's family, but hosted by Jayalalithaa. The two were even jailed together! And then, Jayalalithaa threw Sasikala out of her house. But, when it came to choosing between her family and her friend, Sasikala chose Jayalalithaa.

Does their relationship give Sasikala any right to succeed Jayalalithaa to the party's top post, in a dynastic fashion? It does it seems, at least for many AIADMK workers. Though she may not have Jayalalithaa's impeccable credentials, party workers say Sasikala knows Dravidian politics as she has watched the former party chief from close quarters.

If she does succeed in becoming the general secretary of the AIADMK, it will not be very different from Rabri Devi becoming the chief minister of Bihar when Lalu Prasad Yadav was jailed in the fodder scam. Sonia Gandhi, though reluctant to enter politics soon after Rajiv Gandhi was killed, took to it like duck takes to water. And Sasikala is far from reluctant!

But, to step into Jayalalithaa's shoes, Sasikala needs not only the charisma and ability to communicate, but also the ability to lead the party to victory. It will be a tough call because, by that time, the AIADMK will have an anti-incumbency factor spanning two terms.

As the 60-year-old Chinnamma, there is a general curiosity about her. Seen often in public with Jayalalithaa, Sasikala has never been heard, though those in the know say she has not just spoken, but given directions on government files, too—with or without the former chief minister's consent.

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The Week

Topics : #opinion

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