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The grand 'Sasikala as Tamil Nadu CM’ plan: How, when and why?

With late TN Chief Minister Jayalalithaa’s friend-turned-political-heir VK Sasikala being appointed the General Secretary of the AIADMK, senior party leaders have begun appealing for her to take the post of CM as well. While Revenue Minister RP Udayakumar issued the call first, senior leader and Lok Sabha Deputy Speaker Thambidurai released a statement on Monday appealing that she take over as CM immediately.

How Sasikala can become CM

Though Sasikala has never held a post in the government, and is not currently an elected MLA, it is possible for her to immediately ascend to the post of Chief Minister. The AIADMK Legislature Party can elect her their leader, following which she will be sworn as CM by the Governor. From the date she becomes the CM, she has a six-month period in which she must get elected as an MLA.

If this procedure is carried out, current Chief Minister O Panneerselvam will have to step down from the post. This will not be the first time OPS has done so, having served twice before as interim CM in 2001 and 2014, relinquishing the post when Jayalalithaa had crossed legal obstacles in her path.

Where she is likely to contest from

The question of which constituency she will contest elections is the subject of avid discussion within and outside the AIADMK. There is, of course, a seat already available for her to contest, as the RK Nagar constituency has fallen vacant with Jayalalithaa’s death. 

However, there is speculation that she will not opt for this seat, as winning an urban constituency is not assured.

Instead, sources within the party say, talks are on to fix a constituency in a southern district. There is some buzz that Revenue Minister Udayakumar may quit his seat in Sattur constituency in Madurai district to make room for Sasikala. It is highly likely that the constituency chosen for Sasikala will be one having a high number of Thevar and Gounder votes, to ensure a favourable caste calculus for her.

Why become CM now?

There are two reasons for Sasikala to take charge of the state in the immediate future. Firstly, she might opt to strike when the iron is hot, taking over at a time when the power vacuum left by Jayalalithaa has not been filled by any other senior leaders. There has been anger and rumblings of dissension against Sasikala among party cadres and supporters in the past few weeks. However, her emotional speech when she was appointed General Secretary of the party seems to have cooled tempers somewhat and raised the possibility of the rank and file accepting her.

Another significant reason is the legal troubles that Sasikala has been facing in the disproportionate assets case against her. It seems that Sasikala has received legal advice that the chances of her being acquitted are higher if she holds the office of CM, going by the history of such cases in the Supreme Court. After all, Jayalalithaa herself was acquitted in the TANSI case in November 2003 when she was  Chief Minister at the time.

Source: The News Minute