Exodus from VK Sasikala camp continued on Sunday, with five members of Parliament and an MLA pledging support to Tamil Nadu’s caretaker chief minister O Panneerselvam by midday.
The Panneerselvam camp says there is a groundswell of support for their leader and Sasikala is unpopular among the people of Tamil Nadu.
Here are some of the reasons they give:
1. Her veiled threat – “we have waited long, we will approach this differently tomorrow (Sunday)” – on Saturday was roundly condemned by people.
2. Anger is growing over illegal confinement of MLAs and the presence of private security guards, suspected to be toughies from the Mannargudi region Sasikala hails from. Rivals derisively refer to her family as “Mannargudi mafia” for the alleged corrupt dealings of her family, which enjoyed immense clout in early days of J Jayalalithaa’s rule.
3. Growing fear among people – if MLAs can be terrorised then how safe is the common man.
4. Popular perception is that ‘Chinamma’ Sasikala is somehow connected to Jayalalithaa’s illness and her death. She is also seen as a ruthlessly corrupt person responsible for sullying Jayalalithaa’s image.
5. Sasikala’s decision to continue living in Veda Nilayam, Jayalalithaa’s bungalow in Chennai’s upmarket Poes Garden. Veda Nilayam is not a government property. The house was bought by Jayalalithaa when she was a leading actor of the Tamil film industry.
6. The party general secretary has always been accused of trying to control access to Jayalalithaa. Several AIADMK leaders, including Panneerselvam, have said they were not allowed to visit Jayalalithaa during her 75-day stay at the local Apollo hospitals.
7. Sasikala’s makeover – wearing her sari and hair like Jayalithaa and copying her mannerism – has infuriated the supporters of the late chief minister.
8. Re-emergence of Sasikala’s relatives, who were all banished by Jayalalithaa, has raised eyebrows. It was Sasikala’s family that crowded the stage when the former chief minister’s body lay in state. Sasikala and many others have corruption cases pending against them.
9. Chinamma seen as a traitor for going back on a promise she made to Jayalalithaa: After she was thrown out of Poes Garden in 2011, Sasikala gave an undertaking that she would never aspire for a political or party position. She was taken back a few months later after she promised to distance herself from family and promised to stop interfering in the affairs of the government.