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Sasikala rising (The Hindu.)

That V.K. Sasikala was nominated general secretary of the AIADMK by its general council is no surprise. Her elevation from party worker to party head has followed days of demands and entreaties from senior AIADMK leaders that she take up the job. Two things counted in her favour. She was the closest friend of Jayalalithaa, something that means a lot in the personality cult-based structure of the AIADMK. As importantly, any other choice would have divided the party into fractious factions. Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam, the only other possible contender, himself backed Ms. Sasikala. As did most other party leaders, including prominent ministers, who rely on their caste bases for popular support. However, it is doubtful whether the AIADMK rank and file is really enthused by the choice — a fact that will have a bearing on the future of the party. It is not surprising that Ms. Sasikala lacks popular appeal. Over the last two decades, her influence over the party and State politics has been carefully and almost wholly orchestrated from the backroom. Throughout her years at the helm, Jayalalithaa made sure there was no credible second line of leadership in the party. Ms. Sasikala herself was not given a party post, but the fact that she lived at the Poes Garden residence of Jayalalithaa gave her an imposing authority within the AIADMK.

V.K. Sasikala: From soul sister to party leader

The party’s problems do not end with Ms. Sasikala’s elevation. A possible risk is that the authority of Mr. Panneerselvam as Chief Minister could be undermined by the ascent of Ms. Sasikala. Already several ministers have, both privately and publicly, urged her to take over as Chief Minister. The post is hers for the asking, given that she has the backing of most MLAs; Mr. Panneerselvam himself is unlikely to offer any resistance. However, as an accused in the disproportionate assets case against Jayalalithaa, Ms. Sasikala is awaiting a judgment in the Supreme Court in an appeal against her acquittal by the Karnataka High Court after a conviction by the trial court. Following searches in the residential and office premises of Chief Secretary P. Rama Mohana Rao by Income Tax and Enforcement Directorate authorities, questions have been raised about the involvement of higher-ups in the AIADMK in corruption. This has been reinforced by the fact that some top leaders have been close to mining baron Sekhar Reddy, who has been arrested for possession of huge amounts of cash in new currency notes. In such circumstances, it would be both unwise and improper for Ms. Sasikala to take over the State’s administration. In a twist of fate, she has emerged as the most powerful person in Tamil Nadu. But this has occurred in a fragile political environment. Ms. Sasikala and the party need to act with patience and restraint, not self-serving haste.


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