From humble beginnings as a video rental shop owner in Mylapore, Madras (now Chennai) to the chief minister of Tamil Nadu is VK Sasikala’s political journey, who owes it to an IAS officer VS Chandralekha for introducing her to then AIADMK propaganda secretary J Jayalalithaa.
Born into a modest family in Thiruthuraipoondi on January 29th,1956, she was married to Natarajan after graduation and later ran a video rental store in Mylapore.
Chandralekha had hired Natarajan as her public relations officer (PRO) who requested her to introduce his wife to Jayalalithaa. Sasikala later got a contract to cover a Jayalalithaa tour and the latter was impressed by her coverage. Within weeks of coming in contact with the fast-rising AIADMK star, Sasikala became her most endeared friend.
This December 6, 2016, photograph shows VK Sasikala next to the mortal remains of former chief minister of Tamil Nadu state Jayalalithaa during her funeral in Chennai. (AFP file photo)
Her companionship with Jayalalithaa grew to such an extent that she was considered a sister and even took full charge of running her household. Jayalalithaa even adopted Sasikala’s nephew Sudhakaran and organised a grand wedding for him that was the talk of the state. It also led to a spate of Income Tax(I-T) raids and a disproportionate assets case against Jayalalithaa and Sasikala, among others, that even today hangs over Sasikala’s head.
Sasikala braved the ups and downs of her relationship with Amma, as Jayalalithaa is fondly referred to by her, and had managed to make her way back into Amma’s good books even after being thrown out of the Poes Gardens residence by Jayalalithaa. In 1990, Jayalalithaa ousted Natarajan out of the Poes Gardens residence but Sasikala stayed on.
In 1996, Jaya once again came to Sasikala’s defence when she was advised against maintaining links with the latter. News reports of the time asserted that Sasikala did not get involved in party or government affairs.
Tamil Nadu chief minister O Panneerselvam and AIADMK General Secretary V K Sasikala at the party MLA’s meeting in which she was elected as AIADMK Legislative party leader, set to become Tamil Nadu CM, at Party’s Headquarters in Chennai on Sunday. PTI Photo(PTI2_5_2017_000158a) (PTI)
Amma once again ousted Sasikala from her house in October 2011 only to take her back in few months after Sasikala gave an assurance that she would not interfere in any of the political or administrative manners. Sasikala had also given an undertaking to keep Natarajan out of Poes Gardens.
Jayalalithaa had an elder brother, Jayakumar, but reportedly distanced herself from all her relatives and began to trust and place her entire faith in Sasikala. Jayakumar died in 1990 after which no other relative had access to her, including her niece Deepa Jayakumar, who tried to call on Amma when she was admitted to Apollo Hospital in November last year.
In an interview, Jayalalithaa had declared that “Sasikala has taken the place of my mother”. She would brook no argument from anyone criticising or questioning Sasikala and it was known in AIADMK circles that for Amma, Sasikala was very important. And for the party men and women she became Chinnamma.
Undoubtedly, her proximity to Jaya propelled her to this position of power, but she is yet to win over the masses and cadres who do not hold her in the same league as Amma.