Sasikala Pushpa, a rebel in Jaya's kingdom

AIADMK member L. Sasikala Pushpa speaks in Rajya Sabha on Monday during the ongoing monsoon session AIADMK member L. Sasikala Pushpa speaks in Rajya Sabha on Monday during the ongoing monsoon session | PTI

The story of the AIADMK MP Sasikala Pushpa slapping DMK MP Tiruchy Shiva at the Indira Gandhi International airport in Delhi is taking unexpected twists and turns. A political novice, Pushpa, with just a little over five years of political experience, has decided to take on her mighty leader J. Jayalalithaa, who is powerful both in the state and the Centre following the second consecutive victory in the recent Assembly elections.

PTI8_1_2016_000232B Graphics credit: PTI

Two days after the slapgate controversy and the hour-long enquiry inside the Poes Garden residence on Sunday, Sasikala Pushpa on Monday wept in the Parliament saying, she was slapped by her leader and that her life was under threat. "I need protection. I am being forced to resign," she said on the floor.

An hour later, while talking to the media at her Delhi residence, Pushpa claimed that she was attacked by Jayalalithaa and Sasikala, and that her phone was confiscated during the meeting on Sunday. Also, Pushpa alleged that the AIADMK supremo had been forcing her to resign in order to favour someone close to her. Stating that AIADMK parliament party leader M. Thambidurai was already assigned to take the resignation from her, Pushpa said that she will not resign from her MP post.

On the other hand, her husband Lingeswaran Thilagan, who is now in his hometown, Uvari, in Thoothukudi district, said Pushpa was at fault and the MP post was given to her by Amma.

This is not the first time Pushpa, 39, has been a subject of controversy. A few months before, photos of her in a compromising position with a DMK MP went viral on social media. Though it was said that the images were photoshopped, there was no rejoinder or explanation from Sasikala Pushpa. In January this year, she was removed from the AIADMK women's wing secretary’s post, following a leaked phone conversation. In the audio, which went viral, she allegedly talks about the impending defeat for the AIADMK, following the Chennai floods.

Sasikala Pushpa became active in politics in 2011, when she sought a ticket to contest from the Radhapuram Assembly constituency in South Tamil Nadu. She came into the limelight and was looked at as a promising candidate by her leader because of her active political moves in the Thoothukudi-Tirunelveli region. Unfortunately, Pushpa could not contest from Radhapuram as the constituency was allotted to DMDK, which was AIADMK’s key ally in 2011.

But she contested in the local body polls in 2011 and was elected as the mayor of Thoothukudi Municipal Corporation. Reports about her work in Thoothukudi helped her get into the good books of Jayalalithaa. Reportedly, Sasikala Pushpa also owes allegiance to Vaikuntarajan, an industrial bigwig from this region, who was once said to be close to the AIADMK leadership. In fact, when she was elevated as the Rajya Sabha MP in 2014, she was sent to the Upper House only with the purpose to praise her leader and talk for the welfare of the people of the state.

Armed with a 2005 DBA graduation from Southern Cross University, Singapore and an MA in Public Administration from Madras University in 2007, Pushpa was considered to be one of the few AIADMK MPs in the Rajya Sabha who could speak in English and raise issues in the state's interest. Pushpa’s interests include Bharathanatyam. She was also running an IAS coaching centre for students from the lower strata in Thoothukudi, a few years before. Pushpa’s interests and her active politics in Thoothukudi helped her in catching Jayalalithaa's attention for being elevated as the Rajya Sabha MP.

However, the grapevine is that her alleged relationship with DMK MP Tiruchy Shiva had gone sour, following which she slapped him at the airport. But Shiva or DMK have not yet commented on this. Reportedly, Shiva was summoned by his leader M. Karunanidhi to his Gopalapuram residence and was questioned about what happened at the airport. Apparently, sources in the DMK say that the party seniors are happy that the issue had been played up by AIADMK itself in the Parliament.

DMK’s Tiruchy Shiva is a seasoned parliamentarian who had always proved successful on the floor. A voracious reader and an author of two books, 62-year-old Shiva is one of the progressive speakers in DMK. An agriculturist and a social worker by profession Shiva was first elected to the Lok Sabha in 1996. Shiva first came into politics during his school days when the student wing was vociferous in Tamil Nadu. As a student he was imprisoned for one year under MISA during the emergency in 1976. Later, he was the organiser of the DMK district student wing in 1978 and then became the deputy secretary of the DMK student wing. He was later the organising secretary of the DMK from 1992-2007. Shiva is considered one of the senior leaders in the DMK with in depth political knowledge in every subject he talks about. However, the latest slapgate and the pictures of him with Pushpa released a few days before the Assembly elections in May 2016 have brought down his image as a seasoned parliamentarian.

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