Former Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalalithaa’s niece Deepa Jayakumar will likely make her political debut next month, potentially throwing up a fresh challenge for the ruling AIADMK and its new chief S Sasikala.
Jayakumar, 42, had hinted at a conspiracy surrounding Jayalalithaa’s death in December, days after she was barred from entering Apollo hospital where the former chief minister was admitted.
ANI news agency quoted Jayakumar as saying she “cannot accept anyone else in Jayalalithaa’s position”, seen as a challenge to Sasikala, a long-time aide of Jayalalithaa.
Sasikala was named as the AIADMK general secretary despite the controversies surrounding her and stiff opposition from a section of party workers.
“What the Sasikala family is claiming is false…that Jayalalithaa was working based on their ideas,” Jayakumar said on Tuesday after paying her homage to AIADMK founder MG Ramachandran, fondly called MGR.
She said she will now decide whether to join the AIADMK or to float a new party. “(I) will discuss with my supporters before making a decision,” said Jayakumar, who bears a striking resemblance to Jayalalithaa.
She will make a “detailed announcement” on February 24, her aunt’s birthday, Jayakumar said.
Over the past few days, posters have sprung up across Tamil Nadu announcing Jayalalithaa’s niece as the “true heir”, “Junior Amma”, and “Ilaya Puratchi Thalaivi” (Young revolutionary leader), accompanied by photoshopped pictures of Deepa and her late aunt to highlight the similarities in their looks.
On her part, Jayakumar has also been trying to emphasise her resemblance to Jayalalithaa by dressing in sarees similar to what the late CM would have worn, greeting supporters frequently from the balcony of her house at T Nagar.
On Monday, KP Munusamy, a former minister who joined the party in 1972, voiced his displeasure over comments made by Sasikala’s brother Dhivakaran that she and her family played a key role in reuniting the party in 1987.
Sasikala’s extended family is derisively known as the “Mannargudi mafia” among AIADMK cadres.
Sasikala, who has never held any formal position within the AIADMK before, was expelled from the party in 2012 by Jayalalithaa for keeping in touch with her family, whom the then CM believed were conspiring against her.
Exactly 100 days later, Sasikala was back as Jayalalithaa’s confidante and her “apology letter” was aired on Jaya TV, a TV channel owned by the former chief minister.
She is also an accused in a disproportionate assets case which had plagued Jayalalithaa for two decades.
(With inputs from agencies)