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TN in vice-like grip of Sasi

TN in vice-like grip of Sasi
Highlights

It is a government in chains that is running Tamil Nadu now. It would have been so either way. Be it O Panneerselvam, the original choice of Amma...

Edappadi Palaniswamy too has a popular base and is a leader of quite a few strengths. He also hails from the powerful Gounder community dominating the Western Tamil Nadu. But it is not enough for him to steer the AIADMK boat. Sasikala will not allow him the freedom to govern. She, in fact, will be the de facto CM

It is a government in chains that is running Tamil Nadu now. It would have been so either way. Be it O Panneerselvam, the original choice of Amma Jayalalithaa or Edappadi K Palaniswami, Chinnamma Sasikala's choice latter. In the coming months, Tamil Nadu will see only more of political opportunism on display.

Post-Jayalalithaa Tamil Nadu politics have taken a decisive turn. The Dravidian politics may not continue to be the same again in the state. The tussle for power between the Sasikala group and her opponents has the potential to make the murkier politics more complex.

The family, nicknamed Mannargudi Mafia, is back with a vengeance. Despite being in jail, Sasikala will continue to dominate the AIADMK affairs in her own way.

She has not only sacked Panneerselvam and the presidium chairman, E Madhusudhanan, but also inducted back into the party fold those whom Jayalalithaa kicked out of her house for interfering with her government without her knowledge.

After all, it is only Sasikala and her sister-in-law Elavarasi and nephew Sudhakaran who are in the Parappanahara Jail now. The rest are all out and will certainly continue to make the Poes Garden their headquarters again.

As the Supreme Court had remarked while reinstating the lower court's order in the disproportionate assets' case, the House will continue to be a hub of their criminal activity.

Sasikala had installed T T V Dinakaran, another of her nephews, as the deputy general secretary of the Sasikala-led AIADMK (which one is the original AIADMK is yet to be decided and one would witness a prolonged legal battle over the same anyway).

Thus, Sasikala will rule by proxy as long as her party will be in power. Dinakaran is bound to turn out to be a thorn for Edappadi Palaniswami. His unhindered intervention in government even when Jayalalithaa was alive is well-known.

He is known to have 'guided' and 'ordered' several bureaucrats and lesser officials to do his bidding. He played a key role in the award of works, contracts and in settling disputes away from the eye of Jayalalithaa.

The late leader got a scent of it, sought details and threw him out of the Poes Garden in 2011 "for interfering with government administration.” It was not just him Jaya threw out. She had in fact expelled Sasikala, her close friend, from the primary membership of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam on December 19 of 2011 along with her husband M. Natarajan, and 11 of their close relatives.

Jayalalithaa announced the expulsions, first on Jaya TV, and later through a statement. She asked party activists not to have any contact with Sasikala and the other expelled members.

Though Jayalalithaa gave no reason for their expulsion, party sources then said interference of the family members in the administration and political overreach were the reasons for their downfall. AIADMK cadres greeted the announcement with the bursting of crackers.

Natarajan, husband of Sasikala, who was earlier a public relations officer with the State Information Department, had fallen out of Jayalalithaa's favour several years ago. V N Sudhagaran, who was declared a foster son by Jayalalithaa in 1995, was later disowned by her.

Neither was known to be active in the party later, but Jayalalithaa included their name in the expulsion list to send across the message that she had completely cut all links with the Sasikala family hailing from Mannargudi in Tiruvarur district.

Of those who had been expelled, T T V Dinakaran, V Bhaskaran and Sudhagaran are the sons of Sasikala's sister Vanithamani. Dinakaran had also served as an MP of both the Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha.

Bhaskaran had served as the managing director of JJ TV, which folded up before the launch of Jaya TV, the official channel of the AIADMK. He was once arrested on charges of Foreign Exchange Regulation Act (FERA) violations.

Sudhagaran shot to fame when Jayalalithaa organised his mega wedding. But subsequently, when the AIADMK was in power in 2001, he was arrested on charges of attempt to murder under Section 307 of the Indian Penal Code, and provisions of the Arms Act, and the Narcotics Act, for allegedly possessing a revolver and heroin.

S Venkatesh, a doctor, is the son of Sasikala's brother Sundaravadhanan. He was the secretary of Ilaignar and Ilampengal Pasarai (Youth and young women brigades) and was seen as a prominent leader in the party until 2010.

It was he who held parleys with the leaders of the alliance parties for the 2009 Lok Sabha polls, but was removed from his party post in September 2010.

Divakar is another brother of Sasikala. TV Mahadevan, a former secretary of Jayalalithaa Peravai, is the son of another of Sasikala's brothers Vinodhagan. Natarajan's brother M Ramachandran, Eravanan, Mohan (Adyar), Kulothungan, Rajarajan and Thangamani are the others who have been expelled.

This is not the first time Jayalalithaa had disowned Sasikala. In 1996, after she lost the general elections, Jayalalithaa announced that she was disassociating herself from Sasikala.

However, after Sasikala was released from prison on bail, she returned to Jayalalithaa's Poes Garden residence. Both Jayalalithaa and Sasikala are facing a disproportionate wealth case in a special court in Bangalore.

The AIADMK is now firmly back in the grip of V K Sasikala and her family, the so-called Mannargudi Mafia mentioned above.

Sasikala and Dinakaran, however, came back to Poes Garden in 2012 having managed to convince Jayalalithaa that they were changed persons and would never allow a repeat of the mistakes.

This is recent history and people have not forgotten this. How much of acceptance this mafia will have in the public eye is yet to be known. This is what Panneerselvam and the dozen or so MPs' with him are virtually banking upon.

The fact that Sasikala could not wait to become the Chief Minister and played every trick in the book to ascend the throne had not gone down well with the people of Tamil Nadu. The sympathy for Panneerselvam stemmed from the fact that he was installed as CM by Jayalalithaa twice of her own volition.

Edappadi Palaniswamy too has a popular base and is a leader of quite a few strengths. He also hails from the powerful Gounder community dominating the Western Tamil Nadu. But it is not enough for him to steer the AIADMK boat.

Sasikala will not allow him the freedom to govern. She, in fact, will be the de facto CM. De jure, there will be Dinakaran to interfere. Edappadi Palaniswamy is in a very unenviable position. Whether Palaniswamy will just play along or evolve into a leader independent of Sasikala's influence will be watched.

Perhaps, there are several MLAs in Sasikala camp now who may not like the return of Mannargudi Mafia into public life. Members of the Mannargudi clan are not known to respect public sentiments or law. Those in the know do not hesitate to tell us that these members have little decorum and little respect for the law.

This is what Panneerselvam & Co would like to work on slowly and steadily to build their strength. A clash, hence between the two groups is inevitable. The Panneerselvam group has already approached the Election Commission of India against Sasikala elevation and removal of Madhusudhanan.

Much depends on the EC decision. Otherwise too, there could be a clash of interests between Palaniswamy and Sasikala.

The BJP is in no hurry. It has to wait till the next Presidential election. It will keep its fingers crossed till then. Needling business comes later.

A vulture is a patient bird!

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