With zero or little dissent within the party, things have gone smoother than expected for AIADMK General Secretary V K Sasikala in her elevation as next Tamil Nadu Chief Minister. Sasikala was successful in projecting herself as Jayalalithaa’s closest aide and true heir, who stood with the late CM in hard times. Apparently, Sasikala also managed things within the party quite efficiently that made senior party leaders urge her to take over as Tamil Nadu CM.
The transition of power has been so smooth that it even looks orchestrated, amidst suspicion and secrecy around the death of former CM, who was also popular as ‘Amma’. While O Panneerselvam was appointed as CM immediately after Jaya’s demise, Sasikala, who is also referred to as ‘Chinamma’, remained at the top of all party affairs. While everything was okay until Sasikala remained a party leader, voices of dissent grew with her elevation to the CM post. As ‘Chinamma’ is all set to become new ‘Amma’ of Tamil Nadu, here are the top challenges awaiting her:
Lacks Mass Appeal
Becoming a mass leader like Jayalalithaa will be the first challenge for Sasikala. One may argue that Jayalalitha was also new to politics when she took control of AIADMK. But in Sasikala’s case, she has an almost zero connect with people unlike Jaya, who was a successful actress in Tamil film industry. While Jaya faced opposition from senior party leaders, who declared MGR’s wife Janaki the new chief minister, in Sasikala’s case people are wondering as to how there was no dissent from top party leadership against her.
Support from Tamil Nadu film industry is something which matters a lot for a politician in Tamil Nadu. Unlike North India, where Bollywood voices merely play the role of star campaigners, support from movie industry plays a pivotal role in Southern states. In fact, most of the politicians (MGR, Karunanidhi, Jayalalithaa, Annadurai) were actors who took to politics in later years.
In Sasikala’s case, most of the cine-stars are raising concerns over her capabilities and credentials for the post of Tamil Nadu CM. Party’s star spokesperson Anandraj resigned a day after Sasikala’s elevation as Chief Minister. Then came popular actress Gautami’s explosive letter to PM Narendra Modi. There is hardly any popular film star in the state who has spoken in her favour.
Her Ideology on language and culture: While Amma had positioned herself as the biggest saviour of Dravidian culture and people, Sasikala’s concerns for the same are unknown to masses. In DMK, Chinamma will face challenge from a party which has always been known to people as a guardian of Tamil culture and language. In the recent Jallikattu protests too, DMK’s MK Stalin and Kanimozhi won the plot from Sasikala, who didn’t make any public comments in support of the controversial sport. Her speech and dialogue delivery is also something to watch out for. State of Tamil Nadu has long seen demagogue statesmen like Jayalalithaa, MGR, Annadurai and Karunanidhi, who were entertainers when it came to public speaking and mass connect. It remains unknown if Sasikala will be able the spell same magic or not.
Allegations surrounding Amma’s death
AIADMK might out-rightly term Jayalalithaa’s murder allegations as baseless, but these, if hyped and spiced-up with Mannargudi’s bitter history and secrecy in treatment can surely turn out to be costly for Sasikala Natarajan. The likes of Sashikala Pushpa have always been raising rumours against Sasikala and her family for allegedly mishandling the situation inside Apollo, where Jayalalithaa was being treated. Then came actress Gautami’s letter bomb to PM Modi where she demanded a thorough probe in the late CM’s death. Some of the local level leaders quit the party on same concerns. Now, Sasikala’s team has the task to come out clear of the clouds surrounding Amma’s death.
Jayalalithaa’s doctor Richard Beale’s Monday press conference was first such attempt in this regard. However, it may not be enough as opposition DMK might up the ante once Sasikala is crowned the CM.
Allegations against Mannargudi
It’s a known fact that many of Chinamma’s family members (poularly known as Mannargudi), including her husband Natrajan, were never liked by Jayalalithaa and were even banished by the latter in 2011. However, Sasikala publicly disowned her entire family for Jaya. Still Mannargudi members were able to hold prominent positions in the state government and grow their businesses in Tamil Nadu. They are disapprovingly termed as “Mannargudi Mafia” by Tamil media. The family members now have over 30-odd companies linked to them. The businesses include companies in architecture, housing, mining, export-import of granite, printing and publishing, transport services, liquor manufacturing sectors. They even own an entertainment firm called Jazz Cinemas, which runs a 11-screen multiplex theatre in Chennai.
Watch video: 5 Lesser Known Facts About Sasikala Natarajan
Managing Caste Arithmetic
AIADMK’s cadre is based on four big caste blocs within the party — Thevars, Kongu Vellalar Gounders, Vanniyars and Dalits. Sasikala, O Pannerselvam, and most people in her clan are from Thevar community. There was a sense of unhappiness within the party as elevation of two Thevar community leaders – Sasikala as General Secretary and Paneerselvam as CM – at top two positions in the party. While Amma was a champion in keeping all the communities in check, and managing balance within, Chinamma’s entire support base belongs to Thevar community members. An imbalance in caste based favours can fracture the entire mandate of AIADMK.
Carrying forward Amma’s legacy
The populist measures taken up by Jayalalithaa, which helped spread her demigoddess-like appeal among the masses, will be the toughest administration task for Sasikala. Jaya was a master of planning, initiating, and implementing these schemes with strong effect. Jaya’s policies under Amma banner – Amma canteen, Amma seeds, Amma cement, healthcare initiatives, and free laptops to students, were certain things which actually made her the ‘Amma’ of Tamil Nadu’s poor. While one may argue that Chinamma, just like Jaya, will go ahead with these policies, their modification as and when a need arises and effective implementation will be a big administrative challenge for Chinamma.