The apprehension in the DMK was that going after Sasikala soon after Jayalalithaa's demise will make the emotional party rally around its `Chinnamma' (mother's younger sister as Sasikala is referred to). And knowing that there are murmurs among the foot soldiers of the AIADMK over Sasikala making it to the top job, the DMK did not wish to help her garner sympathy by attacking her.

 

But with the Sasikala camp stepping up its campaign to ensure she not only becomes party general secretary by the end of the year but also chief minister next year, the DMK seems to have decided that it is unwise to let her consolidate her position.

 

On Thursday, MK Stalin fired the first salvo by writing to the Governor objecting to the Vice Chancellors of State universities meeting Sasikala. He points out that while some of the VCs said they had gone to express condolences, the AIADMK party mouthpiece Namadhu MGR gave a totally different slant. It published a photograph of the academicians posing with Sasikala, with the caption explaining that they urged her to ``take over the leadership mantle''. The question is whether the Governor, who is also the Chancellor, will ask for an explanation from the VCs.

 

Everyone knows the VCs in all states are essentially political appointments. And what P Vanangamudi, VC of the Dr Ambedkar Law University told `The Hindu', makes it amply clear. He is reported to have said : ``It was a courtesy call but made to ensure political stability in the state. The bureaucrats have extended their support to the universities and in this context, the VCs felt that they should also extend support to the ruling party.''

 

But the VCs aren't really the target. The DMK's attempt is to drive a wedge between Sasikala and chief minister O Panneerselvam, who officially heads the government. By shooting off the missive to the Governor, who swore in Panneerselvam as CM, Stalin is pointing to an attempt to cobble up support to replace the current set-up.

 

The DMK is also closely looking at the BJP's attempt to ensure Panneerselvam stays in office, even though he does not have the support of the AIADMK MLAs. Many of them have already, including ministers, have called for Sasikala to become the CM. Sources say the BJP has its reservations about Sasikala becoming CM as it believes she, with the backing of her politically sharp family, has the ability to consolidate herself as a regional force. Which is why Union minister Venkaiah Naidu's interview to Thanthi TV, a Tamil news channel that New Delhi will do business with Panneerselvam is significant.

 

The DMK strategy is therefore also governed by the BJP's thinking. The saffron party does not want the AIADMK government to collapse. The Income tax raid are also seen as a message being sent to Poes Garden not to overreach itself. But the DMK would want the internal faultlines in the AIADMK to come to the fore and force a fresh election in 2017.

 

Another strategy being worked out is to play on the section of the cadre that has its misgivings about Sasikala. Sources say an attempt will be made to poach on AIADMK cadre in significant numbers from each district and make them cross over to the DMK. This will be to build a counter narrative to the AIADMK which has been publicising the visit of every person to Poes Garden as a request to Sasikala to take over.

 

The DMK knows the legislators who have another four and a half years of their term left will not quit and attract the provisions of the anti-defection law. In any case, most of the AIADMK legislature party is personally loyal to Sasikala since she handled most of the ticket and money distribution before the assembly elections this May.

 

The DMK has two years to consolidate itself in Tamil Nadu. In 2014, it was whitewashed in the Lok Sabha polls, not winning a single seat.

 

The battle of intrigue on the political chessboard of Tamil Nadu is only going to get more intense now. Grab your popcorn!