Now chorus for Sasikala as CM gains decibel level
- There is growing call inside AIADMK to appoint Sasikala as the next CM.
- Will this leave the party divided?
- What does it mean for Tamil Nadu.
Make no mistake about it. Things are moving to a plan within the AIADMK. The optics at Veda Nilayam, Jayalalithaa's residence which is now being occupied by Sasikala, are only one part of the story. The fact that the AIADMK twitter handle is religiously tweeting the pictures of crowds of party leaders and workers folding their hands before Sasikala tell its own story.
The chorus is building up, with the surround sound ramping up its decibel levels. On Sunday, on the occasion of the 13th-day function after Jayalalithaa's demise, a wing of the AIADMK - Jayalalithaa Peravai - set the cat among the pigeons by asking Sasikala to take over the mantle of the state. This is a significant forward since so far the demand was only to make Sasikala the general secretary of the party while allowing O Panneerselvam to run the government.
Why this is significant is because the Peravai resolution is much more than a trial balloon. ``We urge Chinnamma (as Sasikala is referred to) to take charge and become the chief minister of Tamil Nadu as early as possible,'' said R B Udhayakumar, who apart from being the secretary of the Jayalalithaa Peravai is also the revenue minister of Tamil Nadu.
This clearly exposes the twin power centres within the AIADMK now. A minister of Panneerselvam's cabinet openly wants a change in leadership. The Peravai justifies it by saying that like in the past, the party and the government should be headed by the same person. And their opinion is that Sasikala is best suited for the job. How is that, do not ask.
Udhayakumar is not alone in making the demand. He is in the company of two more ministers, Sevoor Ramachandran and Kadambur Raju, which exposes the faultlines within the ruling party. The plan is to make Sasikala contest the byelection from RK Nagar assembly constituency, which has fallen vacant after Jayalalithaa, once she is elected as general secretary. Which means the plan is to have Panneerselvam as stopgap arrangement only till mid-2017 at best.
What does it mean for Tamil Nadu? If the plan indeed translates into reality, it will mean having a CM who has never been heard before in public, whose views on different matters concerning Tamil Nadu are unknown, who has only been a shadow of the former party boss and CM, whose only virtue it would seem was to have shared space at home with Jayalalithaa. Is all this good enough to head the state?
What does it say about the party? It shows that AIADMK is following the path that would prevent the party from splitting. Most agree there is no other leader who has a pan-AIADMK acceptability and therefore Sasikala, in the name of Amma, would be the best and safest bet.
But then there is also a view that the cadre may not be on the same page as the leaders of the party. There are many who feel Sasikala's ascension to the throne will only leave the door open for her family to control the AIADMK. They argue that the AIADMK will then become a family party like the DMK.
Which is perhaps why since last week, posters heralding Chinnamma as the next leader have started making an appearance. Jaya TV has been airing interviews with AIADMK activists from the districts, all of them pleading that Sasikala should take over. While there would be little public interest in Sasikala taking over as party chief, opinion would be divided on whether she is best suited to be CM.
Then there is the ethical dimension to this plan to make Sasikala the CM. The mandate was for Jayalalithaa and the MLAs who contested on the AIADMK two leaves symbol. Sasikala, at least officially, was never a part of the political matrix that fought the elections.
The jury is out on whether Panneerselvam will agree to declare his innings at Sasikala's command. And whether any non-AIADMK parties will step in to intervene should things come to such a pass.
Which is why it is important to note that Udhayakumar also like Panneerselvam and Sasikala, hails from the Thevar community. Caste is cast in stone in Tamil Nadu politics and to convey that the CM does not have the support of a fellow caste member, is intended to send across a message.
It is clear the AIADMK is going through a churn. But unlike several other parties, where intra-party differences and squabbles provide fodder for rivals to exploit, it looks like smooth sailing for Sasikala at the moment. How long this veneer of unity will last, is anyone's guess.