`Chinna Amma' rises on TN's political horizon

As Tamil Nadu bid adieu to J Jayalalitha, regarded in Tamil Nadu as  the `Amma' of the state's politics, her close friend and confidante V K Sasikala, also known as 'Chinna Amma', is raring to assume the mantle of the next `Amma', with active support from  AIADMK leaders.

Even as reports in the social media and some public figures raise doubts over the suspicious manner in which a sick Jayalalitah was kept out of bounds for both party men and her supporters at Chennai's Apollo Hospitals, the 'Mannargudi Mafia'  that had a strangle hold on Tamil Nadu's ruling party and Jayalalithaa, is reported to be tightening its grip.

With most AIADMK legislators, including ministers openly backing 'Chinna Amma' Shashikala and her inner circle of ministers and officials are deftly working to widen her influence on the party and the public at large.

Jayalalithaa's Poes Garden home is all for Shashikala now and in what is seen as clear signals that VK Sasikala will not face too many hurdles in gaining and probably even holding on to the reins of the ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) in Tamil Nadu, a section of party leaders on Friday openly hailed her as the natural political heir of late chief minister Jayalalithaa.

On Friday, senior party leaders, including Lok Sabha deputy speaker M Thambidurai, Tamil Nadu assembly speaker P Dhanapal and former minister Pollachi V Jayaraman, met Sasikala in signs that she has got assurances of support from some of those who were earlier seen as possible stumbling blocks to her perceived political aspirations.

Later in the evening, chief minister O Panneerselvam and his senior cabinet colleagues were seen patiently waiting behind a barricade when Sasikala went to pay homage at the spot on the Marina where Jayalalithaa was buried.

Panneerselvam and his senior cabinet colleagues who met 'Chinna Amma' at 'Veda Nilayam' for the second consecutive day on Friday, held discussions with her for nearly three hours.

While there is nothing to show that Shashikla was seeking support for her political career, she has summoned several senior leaders, bureaucrats and even police officers to Poes Garden.

AIADMK leaders argue that Sasikala looked extremely tired as she has spent more than 70 days in hospital (when Jayalalithaa was being treated). But they don't explain why she had to do it alone when the whole of Tamil Nadu was willing to share her troubles.

Former minister and AIADMK MLA KA Sengottaiyan, who was believed to have a mind of his own also closed ranks on Friday, extending support to Sasikala, stating that he would remain loyal to the party and its leadership till his last breath. He also threatened to take legal action against those spreading rumours about his political stand ''with a view to creating confusion in the party''.

Meanwhile, MP from Coimbatore AP Nagarajan, former MLA VR Rajangam and a few others released advertisements in newspapers inviting Sasikala to take over the mantle of the party and administration.

Nagarajan, who is the AIADMK's Coimbatore City unit presidium chairman, said, ''It is 'Chinna Amma' who fulfilled Amma's wishes when she was alive. She sacrificed her family life for the sake of Amma. Who will come forward to even leave her husband to take care of Amma?''

In an advertisement issued under his name Nagarajan is quoted as saying, ''Yesterday MGR left Amma as an asset and today Amma has left Chinna Amma as an asset.'' Another advertisement compared the friendship between Jayalalithaa and Sasikala to the friendship between the Mahabharatha characters Karna and Duryodhana.

Nagarajan also rejected suggestions that Sasikala would not gain acceptance among the general public, and said it was but a vicious campaign by the DMK through social media.