Since Jayalalithaa’s death, there has been only one major question that the political parties and the people of Tamil Nadu have been asking themselves and yes, it is a heart-wrenching question for them – “Who will step into Amma’s shoes?”
Many people lamented openly on TV that no leader be it Sasikala Natarajan or anyone else can be a replacement to their beloved Amma.
And now in a shocking development, even as Sasikala has been ”unanimously” elected this morning as AIADMK’s General Secretary – a position that was held by Jayalalithaa – a Madras High Court Judge has reportedly raised “doubt” about Jayalalithaa’s death.
Actress Gautami had also penned an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, requesting a probe on Jayalalithaa’s treatment. She had raised concerns over who had taken a call on Jayalalithaa’s treatment and why timely medical updates were not made in a transparent manner. The actress, however, did not name Sasikala Natarajan in her letter.
On the day of Jayalalithaa’s funeral, Ramesh Chennithala, Leader of the Opposition in Kerala Legislative assembly and a senior Congress leader, had told Asianet News, “The leadership issue is an internal matter of the AIADMK party and I cannot comment but given that the last rites were conducted by Sasikala and all directions related to Jayalalithaa’s funeral, even to the smallest details, were being decided by Sasikala, it appears to me that Sasikala and O Panneerselvam will take forward the leadership of the party together.”
Now after a day of dramatic developments when we saw some ugly scenes of Sasikala Pushpa’s supporters clashing with Sasikala Natarajan’s supporters at the AIADMK HQ in Chennai – the AIADMK party’s decision is clear – to let Chinnamma take the mantle of leadership in the party and follow the path of their beloved Amma.
The AIADMK party has today unanimously chosen Sasikala as the party General Secretary. One of its spokespersons had stated that Jayalalithaa had never taken a decision without Sasikala’s knowledge and therefore, Sasikala is the only leader who can save the party.
But, has Sasikala’s era truly begun in Tamil Nadu without a clear mandate from the people who were Jayalalithaa’s support base?
This also raises questions about O Panneerselvam’s role in the state.
Here are 5 questions that will determine whether Sasikala will truly be able to step into “Amma’s” shoes and take the party and the state forward:
1. Has the AIADMK party conducted a fair and frank internal discussion on how Sasikala is the party’s most eligible candidate for the top party post that was once held by Jayalalithaa? After all, Sasikala Natarajan is not known as a leader of the masses nor does she have any solid political experience to back her.
2. When Jayalalithaa was at the helm of party affairs, there was no scope for differences to be aired. It was understood that she was the supreme authority inside her party. Will Sasikala be able to command the same allegiance from the party leaders and ground workers? Already, TV reports indicate that the leaders in the party are unable to gauge public sentiment on this issue and rumors are plenty that a small section of AIADMK leaders wanted to bring in Deepa – Jayalalithaa’s niece on board to counter Sasikala’s growing influence.
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3. Is the party’s “unanimous” decision of electing Sasikala as the new AIADMK General Secretary merely a symbolic one to “honour Amma” or is it a shrewd political move to keep CM Panneerselvam in check? Either way, this may pave the way for a rift within the AIADMK party when it has to take critical decisions relating to policy issues and governance.
4. Given that Jayalalithaa’s constituency – the RK Nagar assembly – is notified as vacant, will Sasikala’s appointment as General Secretary also mean that she will fight the RK Nagar bypoll? Will the people who voted for Jayalalithaa accept Sasikala simply because she had been close to their beloved Amma?
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5. And if Sasikala wins the RK Nagar bypoll, will O Panneerselvam step down and let Sasikala take charge as the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu? And if yes, how will the people of Tamil Nadu react to these developments?
Even as these emerging questions assume significance and political pundits continue their search for the answers, it remains to be seen how Sasikala is able to grasp the finer nuances of Tamil Nadu politics, the dynamics of winning the mandate of the people and finally, balancing party’s interests.