[dropcap]J[/dropcap]. Jayalalithaa, who passed away leaving Tamil Nadu in tears and pain, what does her death indicate for the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK)? The party was founded by MGR and revived hugely by Jayalalithaa after a vertical split following his death. If the people at the head of Jayalalithaa’s funeral bier are any indication, Sasikala and her large extended Mannargudi family are in control at the moment. What political ambitions she, her estranged husband, and the many nephews and nieces nurture is not known. Will the family’s hold continue? After MGR’s death in 1987, Jayalalithaa proclaimed herself as his political heir and, having fought off the faction headed by Janaki Ramachandran, MGR’s widow, emerged as the sole leader of the AIADMK. Following the 1989 election, she became Leader of the Opposition to the DMK government headed by M Karunanidhi, her bête noire. This was a powerful message to the rank and file of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, invoking memories of a sad Friday 29 years ago.
In December 1987, when party founder MG Ramachandran died , Jayalalithaa assumed a similar position to the one Sasikala took on at the Rajaji Hall. Two years later, Jayalalithaa would become the AIADMK supremo. However, Sasikala did not face the kind of bitterness Jayalalithaa defied from AIADMK members in 1987. There was a touch of reverence in the way party leaders attended to Sasikala, who is known in the organisation as “chinna amma” or younger mother. Sasikala performed the final rituals in the Vaishnavite tradition to which Jayalalithaa belonged. But she wasn’t alone in this task. Jayalalithaa’s nephew Deepak Jayakumar made a surprise appearance and followed Sasikala closely during the rites. The way AIADMK leaders conducted themselves during Jayalalithaa’s funeral provided ample indications about where the new power center was shifting. After Jayalalithaa’s demise, the party has to elect a new general secretary. Almost every political leader, including Narendra Modi who paid homage to Jayalalithaa’s body at Rajaji Hall reached out to Sasikala to console her. While she stood prominently next to Jayalalithaa’s remains, O Panneerselvam, who was sworn in as chief minister, chose to mostly remain with other ministers and party members. Congress leaders, in particular, were keen to introduce both Sasikala and her husband Natarajan to party vice president Rahul Gandhi. Natarajan’s presence at the funeral surprised many as it was assumed for long that he was not in Jayalalithaa’s good books.
In 1991, Jayalalithaa became Tamil Nadu’s youngest chief minister for the first time. She earned a reputation for a punishing work ethic and for centralising state power among a coterie of bureaucrats; her council of ministers, whom she often shuffled around, were largely ceremonial in nature. Despite an official salary of only a rupee a month, Jayalalithaa indulged in public displays of wealth, culminating in a lavish wedding for her foster son in then Madras (Chennai) in 1995. In the 1996 election, the AIADMK was nearly wiped out at the hustings; Jayalalithaa lost her seat also. The new Karunanidhi government quickly filed several corruption cases against her, and she had to spend time in jail. Her fortunes revived in the 1998 general election, as the AIADMK became a key component of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s government; her withdrawal of support toppled it and triggered another general election just a year later.
The AIADMK returned to power in 2001, although Jayalalithaa was personally disbarred from contesting due to the corruption cases filed against her. Within few months of her taking oath as chief minister, in September 2001, she was disqualified from holding office, and forced to cede the chair to her staunch loyalist O. Panneerselvam. Upon her acquittal six months later, Jayalalithaa returned as chief minister to complete her term. Her government was noted for its ruthlessness; midnight arrests of political opponents abound. The unpopularity of these moves—the AIADMK scored a duck in the 2004 general election—forced her to reverse them, though she was able to contain the DMK’s victory margin in the 2006 assembly election. In the 2011 assembly election, the Jayalalithaa-led AIADMK and its allies routed the ruling, scandal-tainted DMK’s alliance. Sworn in as chief minister for the fourth time, her government embarked on an ambitious programme of social welfare and development. However, three months into her tenure, a trial court convicted her in a disproportionate assets case in September 2014, rendering her disqualified to hold office. After eight months, which included a twenty-day stint in jail, Jayalalithaa was acquitted of all charges by the Karnataka High Court and once again sworn-in as chief minister in May 2015. In the 2016 assembly election, she became the first Tamil Nadu chief minister since MGR in 1984 to be voted back into office.
A great leader of Tamil Nadu has passed away and people of this state will remember her for the good work performed by her mainly for the welfare of poorer sections. She introduced mini buses in Chennai, which covers remote areas of the city as well. Amma chemist shops, Amma canteen are very popular among people. It is very unfortunate that her untimely death has snatched away a good leader. She was trying to do better work for the people of this state. She was an astute politician and shared a mutually comforting relationship with her voters. Indian politics should evolve into one in which the voters are educated not to be guided by freebies, but consider about the long term interests of the nation.
Now coming back to holding power, during Jayalalithaa’s three tenures as Chief Minister, Sasikala is alleged to have wielded absolute power behind the scenes. She was arrested along with Jayalalithaa on 7th December 1996 and was remanded to judicial custody for 30 days in connection with the Colour TV scam. However, they were acquitted by the Supreme Court as the charges were found to be baseless. On 19th December 2011, Jayalalithaa expelled her and 13 others including Sasikala’s husband Natarajan and their relatives, including T. T. V. Dhinakaran and Jayalalithaa’s disowned foster son V N Sudhakaran and relieved them from the AIADMK. Sasikala was admitted back into the party on 31st March 2012, when she vowed to sever her ties with all her relatives and to serve with no public ambitions. Sasikala along with Jayalalithaa and two others were sentenced to four years imprisonment by a special court in Bangalore on 27th September 2014. Along with imprisonment, they were also asked to pay fine of Rs. 100 crores for Jayalalithaa and Rs. 10 crores for Sasikala and others. They were acquitted by High Court as they were not found to be guilty. The case is now pending before the Supreme Court. Sashikala is known for her power sharing capacity with Jayalalithaa and many speculate that she may take the reins of AIADMK.
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