‘As the financier, she controls the party.’
Is V K Sasikala taking over as Tamil Nadu’s chief minister a coup?
Or is it a very carefully planned and calculated move?
How long will she be able to continue as chief minister?
Dr P Sudarshan, associate professor at the department of humanities and social sciences, IIT-Madras, discusses with Rediff.com‘s Shobha Warrier the politics in Tamil Nadu post-Sasikala’s takeover.
Sasikala becoming chief minister has been described by some as a black day. Do you feel so?
I will not go to the extent of saying that it was a black day.
I am looking at the AIADMK Web site to see whether this can be challenged Constitutionally.
Even the basic constitution of the party does not allow this kind of backdoor entry.
I think this will be challenged in court.
You mean taking over the party or the leader of the legislature party?
This is the undemocratic capture of the party and the legislature.
In the case of capturing the party, though the issue has come under the RTI rules, this is a grey area.
The ruling has to be enacted.
It is also a fact that most political parties in India function undemocratically and they are autocratic.
But in the case of the legislature, what she has done is clearly a backdoor entry and it can be challenged in the Election Commission as well as in court.
Anyone can file a PIL challenging her entry, which is without any legitimate representation of the people.
This is a Constitutional impropriety.
Many ordinary people also feel that it is a shame on the state…
Has it not been like this for the last 30 years?
Jayalalithaa herself was not a democratic person.
She did everything according to her whims and fancies.
Even in the case of Sasikala, she was asked to go out one day and then she was let in.
She (Jayalalithaa) didn’t do anything democratically.
The DMK is also not very democratic, but slightly better.
Karunanidhi has been the leader of the party for the last 50 years.
At least the DMK has a good party structure and they have local elections.
Do you feel Sasikala and the people around her planned all the moves so meticulously from the time Jayalalithaa passed away to finally capture the chief minister’s chair?
Most people feel that everything was orchestrated very well by Sasikala and the people around her, some even say that the planning started from the time Jayalalithaa was in hospital.
If you look back, Sasikala’s hand was there in party tickets distribution last year.
Jayalalithaa was said to be not happy with the choice of candidates.
All the MLAs and MPs chosen by her now work to please her…
That’s why the situation is so undemocratic.
It is a quid pro quo.
You make them MLAs and MPs and they repay this way.
We have a democratic system to avoid such a quid pro quo.
Jayalalithaa had never declared a political heir, but Sasikala now acts as if she is the heir to her legacy.
On Sunday, she said she was bound to complete all that ‘Amma’ had started. Do you think people will accept all this silently?
What we saw is a cleverly planned coup.
There is a lot of anger against what Sasikala has done as people feel she has used Amma’s faith and proximity to appropriate power.
Nobody has done any survey on the mood of the people, but at the cadre level, there is a lot of discontent.
Nobody is sure whether Poes Garden is legally hers. People on the street ask how can Sasikala claim Jayalalithaa’s residence?
Not only the cadre, even ordinary people are extremely unhappy with the way things have unfolded.
There are asking a lot of questions about where she lives to the security provided to her and the sycophantic attitude of the ministers and MLAs.
Do you think the cadres may revolt against her and the MLAs and MPs?
In every nook and corner of the state, you see her posters being torn.
It shows their displeasure and anger against her. I don’t know whether there will be a revolt.
What we see is not only undemocratic, but the play of money.
It is not even personal loyalty that is working, but the power of money.
As the financier, she controls the party.
Do you see party cadres moving to the DMK en masse?
There were chances of a split happening in the party with some leaders going to the DMK with their followers.
But she has managed everything so cleverly that nobody has done that so far.
Do you think these clever moves are planned by her or her husband Natarajan or anybody else in the family?
Natarajan is known for his political moves and savviness.
He has managed to survive for 30 years even with Jayalalithaa turning against him.
He is a very clever political operator.
Soon after the passing away of Jayalalithaa, it was rumoured that he was planning many things behind doors.
I don’t think her (Sasikala’s) brothers are as well connected as Natarajan.
So, because of his reach, he may be pulling the strings for her, but I don’t think she is a novice as far as politics is concerned.
She was with Jayalalitha for 30 years.
Do you think she will be able to rule the state for three years or so?
I expect a repetition of 1991 to 1996 in Tamil Nadu.
We will see lot more corruption and mismanagement of government resources.
The DMK will have a better chance of winning the next election than the AIADMK under Sasikala.
We see a lot of anger on social media, but people who came out in lakhs for an issue like jallikattu are silent and indifferent now…
It was not just for jallikattu that people came out to the streets.
So many issues made people angry and some of the other issues were Sasikala, lack of administration in the state and the mystery surrounding the more than two months of Jayalalithaa’s hospitalisation, etc.
I don’t think there will be the same kind of agitation now, but we will see people expressing their anger in the local body elections.
Though the local body elections are conducted by the state election commission, the court and the others monitor it very closely.
Money plays a major role in elections in Tamil Nadu…
Then, the DMK should have won in 2011 and the AIADMK should have won more seats this time (in May 2016), but it didn’t happen.
In 2016, the AIADMK just scraped through winning by margins of 500 to 1.000 votes.
Perhaps people look at money as part of the game.
I feel the Election Commission and the courts should crack down on the kind of corruption that we see during elections by punishing even those who accept money.
I think she has taken over the party and legislature so fast because she feels if she waits, it will be tough.
She is jittery, otherwise she would not have anointed herself as the party general secretary within a few days after Jayalalithaa’s death.
Is it advantage Sasikala right now?
Right now, she holds all the aces.
I feel people’s anger might turn against the MLAs.
If the court cases turn against her, that will be the end of Sasikala.
It is going to be very interesting times.
Sasikala is an extremely smart operator.
Otherwise, how could she have amassed so much wealth?
How will O Paneerselvam be remembered by history?
As a person who didn’t do his duty.
He was elected by the people, and his allegiance should have been to the people and not to Jayalalithaa or Sasikala.
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IMAGE: V K Sasikala pays homage to J Jayalalithaa, her companion of 30 years, whose administrative and political mantle she has now inherited.