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Sasikala Natarajan to Take Political Plunge, to be New AIADMK Chief

Sasikala Natarajan arrives to pay her last respects to political commentator Cho Ramaswamy at his residence in Chennai on Wednesday. (PTI Photo)

Sasikala Natarajan arrives to pay her last respects to political commentator Cho Ramaswamy at his residence in Chennai on Wednesday. (PTI Photo)

The stage seems all set for Sasikala Natarajan to take over the reins of the AIADMK.

Chennai: The stage seems all set for Sasikala Natarajan to take over the reins of the AIADMK.

Senior functionaries of the party have urged the close aide of the late Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa to step in and fill the void left behind by the CM’s untimely death, the party’s official Twitter handle said on Saturday.

ALSO READ: No Answer to This Question: AIADMK on Jayalalithaa’s Will

“Senior functionaries of AIADMK urge Thirumathi Sasikala to lead the party on the path shown by Puraitchi Thalaivi Amma,” the party tweeted.

A few days ago, the new CM O Panneerselvam and his senior ministers had visited the Veda Nilayam residence in Chennai’s upmarket Poes Garden to hold discussions with Sasikala Natarajan who holds no office in the government or the party.

Veda Nilayam, where Sasikala now stays, was the residence of the late J Jayalalithaa, who besides being the chief minister, was also the general secretary of the All-India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhakam (AIADMK). A post she held with such command that she was called 'Niranthara Podhu Cheyalalar’ (permanent general secretary).

After the visit by Panneerselvam and his Cabinet colleagues — P Thambidurai, Edappadi K Palaniswami, SP Velumani — on Friday, one of the ministers who talked to News18, described it as a mere “courtesy call”.

ALSO READ: After Jayalalithaa's Death, Concerns About Return of 'Mannargudi Mafia'

The succession plan in the party will not be as smooth as that in the government. While Panneerselvam was sworn in within hours of Jayalalithaa’s death, sources said the process of finding a successor in the party is caught in a caste wrangle — between the dominant Thevars, the caste to which Sasikala belongs, and the Goundars, who are strong in the western belt of the state.

Political commentators believe Sasikala’s elevation may not be all that smooth in the medium-term given the resentment against her immediate family members – dubbed the “Mannargudi Mafia” – whom Jayalalithaa herself had banished from Poes Garden.

Immediately after her death, Sasikala’s husband Natarajan had told News18 that “any ordinary person could lead the party now” since Jayalalithaa and MGR had left behind a solid organization.

The statement was interpreted as Natarajan laying the ground for his wife – a political rookie who had largely remained in the shadows while Jayalalithaa was alive – to take over the reins of the party that has still more than four years to go in government.

first published:December 10, 2016, 15:46 IST