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Sasikala's Husband Natarajan Says 'Anyone' can Take AIADMK Forward

After the death of the most powerful woman in South India, all eyes are now on one man whom Jayalalithaa despised much and even banished from her Poes Garden residence while she was alive

Poornima Murali | CNN-News18

Updated:December 8, 2016, 3:38 PM IST
Sasikala's Husband Natarajan Says 'Anyone' can Take AIADMK Forward
File photo of Sasikala's husband M Natarajan.

Chennai: After the death of the most powerful woman in South India, all eyes are now on one man whom Jayalalithaa despised much and even banished from her Poes Garden residence while she was alive. The man in question, M Natarajan – husband of Jayalalithaa’s conscience-keeper Sasikala Natarajan – opened his mind to News18 in an exclusive interview.

So just who will lead the party now that has more than four years left in power?

“Even an ordinary person can take the party forward,” Natarajan told News18, in words that could worry established AIADMK leaders like chief minister OP Panneerselvam, Lok Sabha deputy speaker Thambidurai and veteran Edappadi Palanisami.

Chennai is already rife with speculation of the “Mannargudi Mafia” – as the coterie around Sasikala was called – making a comeback after a few of Sasikala’s family were spotted around the casket bearing Jayalalithaa’s dead body at the Rajaji Hall on Tuesday.

Natarajan – who joined AIADMK when MGR was alive – along with other members of the so-called “Mannargudi Mafia” was banished by Jayalalithaa from all centres of power and her Poes Garden residence in 2011.

Sasikala managed to return to Amma’s good books after publicly distancing herself from her own family.

But on Wednesday, Natarajan spoke to News18 like a party veteran who has a say on its future course.

“There is no vacuum in the party. As long as there is MGR’s and Amma’s popularity, AIADMK will continue to survive,” Natarajan said.

Earlier, there were reports from Chennai that Natarajan has been meeting party MLAs hours before Jayalalithaa breathed her last, and that he was the main force behind orchestrating the sudden mid-night swearing in of Panneerselvam.

On Monday, when Jaya was critical, all the AIADMK MLAs had a meeting inside the Apollo auditorium where MLAs were asked to sign a declaration that Panneerselvam will succeed Jaya. This was to ensure that there is no split in the party.

Natarajan, in his conversation with News18, seemed to claim that he was even party to the decision to put Jayalalithaa as the successor to MGR.

“When MGR was laid to rest at the same place, when we were deciding on who will be the next leader...there were many important leaders…We decided that Amma has the eligibility or quality to take the party to the next level. We knew she will lead the party for 25 years. But she led the party for 28 years and carried forward MGR's legacy,” Natarajan said.

However, party watchers warn that any effort from the part of Panneerselvam or Sasikala to reinstate the coterie would lead to chaos.

That Prime Minister Narendra Modi spent time consoling Sasikala and a few of her family members at the Rajaji Hall has set off rumours that BJP – that’s struggling to take root in the state’s Dravidian polity – could be cultivating Sasikala as a potential power centre within AIADMK.

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| Edited by: Ashutosh Tripathi
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