An impending Supreme Court judgment in a disproportionate assets case and a host of other political and administrative problems will be the major challenges before VK Sasikala, who is set to be the 14th chief minister of Tamil Nadu.
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The apex court is likely to pronounce its verdict next week on the 20-year-old case in which Sasikala is a co-accused along with former chief minister J Jayalalithaa, who died last year, and two of her relatives.
If convicted she would face the danger of disqualification from the coveted post she is all set to take over.
Trial court had earlier gave four-year jail terms to Jayalalithaa and Sasikala after finding the former guilty of amassing wealth worth Rs 66 crore during her first stint as chief minister between 1991 and 1996.
Sasikala’s sister-in-law Ilavarasi and nephew Sudhakaran are co-accused in the DA case.
They were let off after Karnataka high court dismissed the case. But the Karnataka government challenged the acquittal, which is awaiting verdict in the apex court.
The DA case, however, is not the only legal trouble confronting the to-be CM. To add to her worries, madras high court recently permitted the enforcement directorate to investigate against her the FERA violation case in which she was arrested in 1996.
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The court had rejected her plea to be discharged in the case pertaining to payments made in US and Singapore dollars to foreign firms for hiring transponders and uplink facilities for J. Jay TV.
Several members of her immediate and extended family are also facing criminal charges and allegations of abusing power.
On the political front, the challenge before us is to win over the support of those AIADMK cadres, who are opposed to her elevation.
Jayalalithaa’s niece Deepa Jayakumar had already emerged as a rallying point for the disgruntled party leaders and cadres. But to her relief no MLA or MP has opposed her new appointment.
Sasikala will have to be elected to the assembly shortly after taking over as the chief minister as she not a member of the House presently. Getting elected to the assembly though will not be much of a problem, provided the entire party backed her to the hilt. But her real political test will be the ensuing local body elections.
The DMK, under the leadership of M K Stalin, who took over the party’s mantle recently, will pull out all the stops to make life miserable for her in the elections.
The dissention in some AIADMK quarters over her leadership could make things further difficult for her.
On the administrative front, however, Sasikala might get a relatively smooth sailing as most of the bureaucrats were handpicked by her.
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She was recently instrumental in the ouster of many key officials in the chief minister Panneerselvam’s office. Incidentally, ousted officials were the appointees of Jayalalithaa.
Besides, Tamil Nadu bureaucracy is known for its efficiency, and operates as if on auto-pilot mode. This would come handy to Sasikala in dealing with governance issues.
But the excess baggage of family members exerting pressure on officials and police, is something that she would have to guard against. And this is a challenge that would prove to be difficult to overcome, according to an analyst who preferred anonymity.
A big challenge for her on the administrative front will be to deal with the worst drought Tamil Nadu has faced in several decades. Then there is the issue of Cauvery river water sharing, over which Tamil Nadu wants the setting up of a Cauvery River Water Management Board, which the centre has not done allegedly in view of elections in Karnataka.
Tamil Nadu has disputes over river water sharing with Kerala too.