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Sasikala as CM: Growing Shadow of 'Mannargudi Mafia'

So just why is the social media against VK Sasikala’s plans to take over as Tamil Nadu chief minister? Well, much of that answer lies in the history of the so-called Mannargudi mafia, the term used by the press to describe the coterie made up of her immediate relatives that had a high influence on the first term of J Jayalalithaa as CM.

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Updated:February 6, 2017, 2:25 PM IST
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Sasikala as CM: Growing Shadow of 'Mannargudi Mafia'
File photo of AIADMK General Secretary V K Sasikala. (Image: PTI)

New Delhi: So just why is the social media against VK Sasikala’s plans to take over as Tamil Nadu chief minister? Well, much of that answer lies in the history of the so-called Mannargudi mafia, the term used by the press to describe the coterie made up of her immediate relatives that had a high influence on the first term of J Jayalalithaa as CM.

Mannargudi is a small town in Tiruvarur district in the Cauvery delta where Sasikala hails from.

The ‘Mannargudi mafia’ is alleged to have spread out across the government machinery into important positions taking advantage of Sasikala’s proximity to Jayalalithaa.

Both were accused in the infamous disproportionate assets case and were convicted by a trial court in Bengaluru, though the Karnataka High court later reversed the order. The matter in now pending in the Supreme Court.

Incidentally, Jayalalithaa had twice fallen out with Sasikala a few years ago for alleged anti-party activities.

She and some of her family members had been expelled from the party and asked to vacate Jayalalithaa's Poes Garden residence. However, the separation between the two was short-lived as they patched up in no time.

Critics allege that clues that Sasikala and her kin were primed to take over were clear at Jayalalithaa’s funeral day itself. The people crowding around the CM’s casket were Bhaskaran, Mahadevan, Dr. Venkatesh and Dhivaharan.

Dhivaharan is her brother, while the other three are part of her extended family. Sasikala herself was with her in the hospital ever since Jayalalithaa was admitted on September 22, 2016.

Jayalalithaa and Sasikala met in the 1980s and instantly hit it off. She had come in contact with Jayalalithaa in the 1980s as a video company owner, getting the leader’s various events covered.

Hailing from a humble background, 'Chinnamma' as Sasikala is known in her circles gradually gained acceptance in Poes Garden.

Their lives became increasingly intertwined, and when she became chief minister in 1991, Sasikala moved into the official residence. In 1995 came the “mother of all weddings”. Sudhakaran, Sasikala’s nephew who became Jayalalithaa’s foster son, was married to actor Sivaji Ganesan’s granddaughter in an opulent wedding in Chennai.

She lost the election the year after and corruption charges were filed against her as questions were asked about the financing of the marriage, in which crores of rupees were spent. Sudakaran was disowned by Jayalalithaa soon after. The “soul sisters” too had a falling out soon after and patched up later.

But in 2011 the relationship took a curious twist. Tehelka reported that Jayalalithaa, acting on a tip off from Narendra Modi, expelled Sasikala and her clan from her home and banished them into political exile.

Jayalalithaa also sent some of the ‘Mannargudi Mafia’ to prison between 2011 and 2016.

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