Sasikala – seems to be the name reverberating in the political circles lately. By nature, Sasikala was always an introvert and a silent ‘number two’ of the party. Although people fondly call her ‘Chinnamma’, she has a long way to go and huge shoes to fill, for ‘Chinnamma’ means second mother, which contextually speaking would be replacing mother, ‘Amma’ Jayalalithaa. Ever since ‘Puratchi Thalaivi’ Amma, the Iconic ‘Iron’ Lady to say the least, passed away, Sasikala took center stage. It’s not a secret that Tamil Nadu politics was always intriguing. A state where servitude is the only path on a ladder of ascendency, one would find Sycophancy and genuflection as the lowest rung of this very ladder and prostration to be a political norm. Like the famous saying goes, “With great power comes great responsibility”, the political equivalent of which would be, “with great power comes great sycophancy”.
As this is the first political milestone for Sasikala, it could be litmus test on her path to ‘Chinnamma’, a litmus test for her administrative capabilities and political acumen. What is this milestone? It’s neither the pending disproportionate assets case hanging looming over her head nor the self-proclamation of Jayalalithaa’s niece Pushpa as heir apparent. These are trivial, to say the least. It’s the ability of Sasikala to resist the temptation to ascend to the throne of Chief Minister.
AIADMK party leaders flocking to Poes Garden residence requesting Sasikala with folded hands was something widely expected, what wasn’t expected was demand of Revenue minister, RB Udayakumar, urging Sasikala to become head of the government. Although the fact that Udayakumar is considered to be close to Sasikala’s nephew, and hails from Thevar community, cannot be ignored. This lone request might not, but similar requests in the future could drastically change political equations. At a time when Panneer Selvam, the favorite substitute of late CM Jayalalithaa, gained appreciation for his deft handling of Chennai floods, it’s only fair to expect Selvam to yearn for the most coveted post. Any misstep by Sasikala at this juncture could alter the party machinery.
The clever thing for Sasikala would be to turn down the offer and continue as all powerful party general secretary, win an election or two, and understand the rules of the game (as a chairperson, not as a spectator) and work up the ladder towards the Chief Ministerial post. This would ensure two things. One, she could retain sympathy by denying the most powerful position in the state, two, she would get enough time to understand the ground politics, prove to the people and the Chakravyuh associated with it. In the process she should hope to encounter a difficult situation or two, so she can demonstrate leadership skills and thereby emerging as leader of choice of both people and the party. May be she could borrow a leaf from her close aide’s book, to learn a lesson or two. This is exactly where her close association with Amma could help. ‘Claiming’ Chinnamma would be accepting the General Secretary post, however, ‘winning’ Chinnamma would be winning hearts of the people (and party), which would be a true tribute to ‘Puratchi Thalaivi’ Amma. ‘Personality cult’ is the key in the politics of this Dravidian state.