Sasikala Natarajan is set to take charge of Tamil Nadu’s ruling party AIADMK, replacing the late chief minister J Jayalalithaa who died after a cardiac arrest on December 5.
Sasikala has been Jayalalithaa’s closest aide since the 1980s. She has been taking care of party affairs, although she never held any formal position in the AIADMK.
“It is the desire of the entire party that Chinnamma should become our new general secretary,” party spokesman C Ponnaiyan said in Chennai on Thursday.
Sasikala is called Chinnamma, meaning aunt, after Jayalalithaa who was known to her legions of devotees as Amma, or mother.
“She will be elected automatically and unanimously. There is no doubt or fear in that,” the spokesman said.
O Panneerselvam, who succeeded Jayalalithaa as the chief minister, will retain his post.
If Jayalalithaa was the conscience-keeper of AIADMK founder and mentor MG Ramachandran, Sasikala “functioned as the conscience of Amma”, Ponnaiyan said.
“She played a part in her glory and had been with Amma through her good and bad times for 33 years and has played a vital role in keeping the party intact for long.”
Ponnaiyan recalled that whenever party functionaries wanted to discuss an issue with Jayalalithaa, she would “affectionately” refer them to Sasikala.
However, in 1996 and 2011, Jayalalithaa had ousted Sasikala and her family from her Poes Garden home, but took them back soon thereafter.
Sasikala, PRO-husband V Natarajan, and their extended family have been called by rivals as the “Mannargudi Mafia”, allegedly for their stranglehold over Jayalalithaa and the party.
Ponnaiyan expressed confidence that the party’s decision-making bodies, general and executive councils, have powers to elect Sasikala to lead the party and that the “aspirations will be met”.
Despite opposition and distrust among party cadre, AIADMK leaders have stood behind her and pledged their support.
He said an online campaign by opposition parties to “defame Sasikala” and “finish off the AIADMK” will not succeed.
Scores of senior party functionaries have thronged Poes Garden and requested Sasikala to take over the reins of the AIADMK.
Senior leaders, including chief minister Panneerselvam and Lok Sabha deputy speaker M Thambidurai, had voiced their support for Sasikala’s elevation.