Although decks have been cleared for former chief minister J Jayalalithaa’s aide V K Sasikala to take over the reins of AIADMK, it is the nod of two party leaders that she is looking for before going ahead.
But two senior party leaders, Panruti S Ramachandran and PH Pandian are staying away from the party. Sasikala, in order to become the general secretary, needs the go-ahead of the duo.
Meanwhile, ministers and party workers, led by Chief Minister O Paneerselvam, are making a beeline to Poes Garden to call on Sasikala and issuing statements of support.
Ramachandran and Pandian, who have had long stints in the ruling party, were last seen at the Rajaji Hall paying their respects to Jayalalithaa’s body. While Pandian was spotted standing at the head of the stairs along with MLAs all through the day, Ramachandran shut himself up in a nearby room. Later, the two senior leaders were untraceable. The families and officers in both their houses say they are out of station.
Who are the two senior AIADMK leaders?
A former minister, Ramachandran—he was the first to extend support to the faction led by Amma in 1987—was in PMK and DMDK and rejoined AIADMK in 2014. Appointed organising secretary and later party spokesperson, he was seen taking part during TV debates and offering bytes to the media at Apollo Hospitals.
“She governs for crores of families not for one,” was how Pandian put it after Sasikalaa, her husband M Natarajan and 12 of their aides were expelled for anti-party activities. Pandian was a legal advisor to Jayalalithaa between 1996 and 1999, when she faced more than a dozen cases. He was made Parliamentary party leader in Lok Sabha in 1999. Bu in a surprise move, Amma removed Pandian from the post of organising secretary in 2016.
Meanwhile, the party cadre and voters are not happy with Sasikala and her family members taking over Poes Garden and trying to take over the reins of the party. Constant questions against Chinamma as Sasikala is known are heard in various circles. For now, the party cadre are adopting a wait and watch approach. One former AIADMK legislator said Sasikala and her family was not allowed anywhere near Jayalalithaa when she was alive. Now look at them. And to top it all, Chief Minister O Panneerselvam prostrating to Sasikala was just too much for them to digest.