The AIADMK on Monday renewed its calls for Sasikala Natarajan to take over as Tamil Nadu chief minister, barely two days after she officially assumed her position as the acting general secretary of the ruling party.
In a four-page statement released by Lok Sabha deputy speaker and senior party leader M Thambidurai, the AIADMK said the leadership of the party and the government had to be the same for development and progress.
“When the country is going to face parliamentary election in two years, our party AIADMK has to function very effectively to get the wholehearted support of the people, and to continue to win the election, as was done by Puratchi Thalaivar (MGR) and Puratchi Thalaivi (Jayalalithaa), I emphatically request that Respected Chinnamma (Sasikala) has to immediately take over the leadership of the government, as the chief minister of Tamil Nadu,” Thambidurai wrote in a letter issued to the media.
“It is my strong belief that it is very important that Respected Chinnamma has to shoulder the responsibility of the chief minister of Tamil Nadu, to take forward the party and to carry on the governance of Tamil Nadu, for the welfare of the people of Tamil Nadu,” he added.
This isn’t the first time that the party has asked Sasikala, who has never held any public office or contested an election, to take over from O Panneerselvam.
Panneerselvam is currently the chief minister, though he has a history of being a stand-in CM.
“This is hardly new. When Amma was alive he stood in for her as chief minister several times before going back to be the finance minister,” a senior AIADMK leader said.
Party spokesperson S Ponnaiyan repeatedly asked for Sasikala to become the new CM, saying that it was only natural in Dravidian parties that the leader is in charge of both the party and the state.
Panneerselvam himself has been supportive of Sasikala since taking over on December 5, even publishing an ad in a local daily saying she was suitable for the role.
Sasikala will hold the post of general secretary – the highest position in the AIADMK – until formal party elections, which sources said will be held in the first week of January. She was made the acting general secretary because the party has retired the general secretary’s post, which Jayalalithaa held till she died after a cardiac arrest.
According to party rules, candidates for the top post must be an AIADMK member for at least five years. Sasikala, who was expelled from the party by Jayalalithaa in 2011, formally rejoined in 2012. The party presidium is expected to amend the bylaws prior to the elections.
The 60-year-old Sasikala has been the closest aide of the late AIADMK chief and six-time CM since the 1980s. She has been taking care of party affairs, though she never held any formal position in the AIADMK.
Jayalalithaa died after two months of hospitalisation on December 5, plunging the state and the party in crisis. But Sasikala, who performed the last rites, was soon seen as her replacement.