O Panneerselvam, the new Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, is more commonly known as J Jayalalithaa’s ‘Man Friday’ and trusted aide. Soon after Apollo Hospitals said that Jayalalithaa, known as ‘Amma’ to millions in Tamil Nadu, has passed away, O Panneerselvam was sworn in as the state CM. O Panneerslevam has been known by his critics to be a Jayalalithaa devotee. He broke down while taking oath in the wee hours of morning today. Panneerslevam, like Prime Minister Narendra Modi, was also a tea-seller before joining politics. Born in Periyakulam on January 14, 1951, Panneerselvam is now 65 years of age.
But even as Panneerselvam has been chosen to succeed Jayalalithaa, it is Sasikala Natarajan who is expected to be the controlling factor behind the throne. Sasikala Natarajan has always been seen as Jayalalithaa’s only trusted aide. She stayed with Jayalalithaa at the latter’s Poes Garden residence. Vaasanthi in, Amma: Jayalalithaa’s Journey from Movie Star to Political Queen, writes that a section of Jayalalithaa’s faithful supporters resented their very relationship — Jayalalithaa even declared Sasikala her “udanpiravaa sagodhari (sister not related through blood)”. Sasikala was briefly expelled from the party a couple of times, but quickly reconciled with Jayalalithaa on all those occasions. It is widely expected that Sasikala Natarajan will be named as the new general secretary of AIADMK. Speculations are also rife that Sasikala may choose to name M Thambidurai as the party general secretary.
The Indian Express quoted an AIADMK MP as saying, “Both Panneerselvam and Thambidurai will never go against the wishes of Amma. In her absence, they will listen to Chinnamma (Sasikala) provided they are given deserving posts.” According to this party MP, Sasikala Natarajan will be the power centre. She will also be the one who will take charge of Jayalalithaa’s Poes Garden residence, the MP added.
Jayalalithaa passed away at the Apollo Hospitals on Monday. AIADMK’s official Twitter handle put out, “Our beloved leader, The Iron Lady of India Puratchi Thalaivi Amma is no more.” Jayalalithaa suffered a cardiac arrest on Sunday evening, following which she was put on extracorporeal membrane heart assist device. According to Apollo Hospitals, “every possible clinical attempt was made to sustain her revival”. “However despite our best efforts the Honourable Chief Minister’s underlying conditions rendered her unable to recover and she passed away at 11:30 PM today (5.12.2016.),” the hospital’s statement read.
Her death has left a void in Tamil Nadu’s politics and in AIADMK’s leadership and it remains to be seen if Sasikala Natarajan, with the help of O Panneerselvam and possibly M Thambidurai can hold the party together and continue to emerge triumphant in the state.