Picture Credits: NDTV
Sasikala Natarajan is officially J Jayalalithaa’s successor. She was appointed AIADMK’s General Secretary at the party’s council meet on Thursday morning.
With 37 MPs in Lok Sabha, AIADMK is the third-largest party after only Congress and the BJP. So, her appointment surely acquires significance at the national level. In fact, if we go by the number of total MPs and MLAs, Sasikala will now be the third most powerful woman in Indian politics, the first two being Sonia Gandhi and Mamata Banerjee.
Here are the nine things that you need to know about her:
1. Sasikala used to run a video renting and recording shop in the 1980s, when Jayalalithaa was then the Propaganda Secretary of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK). The two met when Sasikala got a contract to record one of Jayalalithaa’s party functions.
2. Sasikala and Jayalalithaa gradually became very close. In an interview, Jayalalithaa said, “Sasikala to me is the sister I never had. And she has taken my mother’s place, she looks after me.”
3. Sasikala has a huge family and the members, including her husband, have interests in both politics and business. It was alleged that some members of her family ran a parallel government by misusing Sasikala’s proximity to Jayalalithaa.
4. Jayalalithaa had to face criticism because of Sasikala’s family. In 2011, Jayalalithaa expelled her and 13 of her relatives from the party. Within a year, Jayalalithaa took her back into the party after she vowed to sever her ties with all her relatives and to serve with no public ambitions.
5. Along with Jayalalithaa, Sasikala was sentenced to 4 years imprisonment by a special court in Bangalore on 27 September 2014. Saskikala was asked to pay a fine of Rs 10 crore. She spent a year in jail in the Tansi land scam.
￼Jayalalithaa drew flak for the lavish wedding of Sasikala’s nephew and Jayalalithaa’s foster son.
6. Sasikala’s involvement in the workings of AIADMK grew in the last decade, especially after Jayalalithaa’s health deteriorated and after she went to jail. But Sasikala has never held any official post in the party or government.
￼A poster featuring Sasikala appeared for the first time when Jayalalithaa was in the ICU. It read , ‘golden period of Amma’s government must continue under you.’
7. The people of Tamil Nadu have never heard Sasikala’s voice as she’s never spoken publicly. Because of her corruption cases, dubious family members, expulsion from the party, and numerous rumours spread by her detractors within the party, her perception in public isn’t great. Will they accept her?
￼Sasikala pays tribute to late Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa at Rajajai Hall in Chennai.
8. Sasikala belongs to the politically important Thevar community. She’s known to have helped a lot of people in her community. As both Sasikala and CM Pannerselvam belong to the same caste, party workers and voters from other castes might feel alienated.
9. Over 130 MLAs and 49 MPs of the AIADMK have visited the Poes Garden bungalow where Sasikala continues to stay after Jayalalithaa’s demise. She’s emerged as a glue for the party leaders, who need a ‘high command’. At least for the time being, she’s been able to keep the flock together.
￼Leaders of AIADMK requesting Sasikala to lead the party. (Photo Courtesy: The News Minute)
(This article was originally published on 16 December 2016 on the website quint.com)