Chennai: Reminding the people of Tamil Nadu of her status in the erstwhile chief minister’s privy council, 59-year-old Sasikala Natarajan made sure that neither she, nor her family members were away from the Chief Minister’s side even in her death.
Clad in a black saree, a sombre-looking Sasikala, who remained a wall of support for Jayalalithaa through thick and thin, remained beside the casket of the departed leader as people filed past it paying their homage, even as no other party members, including the newly anointed Chief Minister O Pannerselvam, were found anywhere near the body lying in state.
She had come in contact with Jayalalithaa in the 80s as a video company owner, getting the leader's various events covered.
Hailing from a humble background from Mannargudi in south Tamil Nadu, 'Chinnamma' as Sasikala was known in her circles gradually gained acceptance in the Veda Nilayam residence, and even wielded influence in AIADMK at one point of time.
Sasikala would usually be seen seated in the rear seat of the vehicle, merely watching Jayalaithaa's electoral addresses, and providing her 'akka' (sister) with assistance.
The relationship between the two had kicked up many a storm during Jayalalithaa's three decades of political career with some blaming her proximity to Sasikala for the AIADMK's electoral defeats on some occasions.
Both were accused in the infamous disproportionate assets case and were convicted by a trial court in Bengaluru, though the Karnataka High court later reversed the lower court order.
Incidentally, Jayalalithaa had twice fallen out with Sasikala a few years ago for alleged anti-party activities.
She and some of her family members had been expelled from the party and asked to vacate Jayalalithaa's Poes Garden residence. However, the separation between the two was short-lived as they patched up in no time.
Sasikala then continued to accompany Jayalalithaa at various functions including the latter's election campaigns in her special vehicle, earning the sobriquet of 'Jayalalithaa's shadow' by detractors.
According to a report in NDTV, Sasikala’s pressing presence in the gloom sends out signals of her growing clout in the background of grief. Notwithstanding the fact that Sasikala has never held an official position in the party or the government, political pundits believe that “Jayalalithaa’s shadow” might have an important say in deciding the late leader’s successor.
But this succession road-map may not be easy, with Panneerselvam’s appointment as the Chief Minister.
The AIADMK leader’s death might also mean doom for Sasikala, with the party sources claiming that the AIADMK might want to distance themselves from the many corruption cases against her.
Jayalalithaa's demise is seen as a personal loss for the 59-year-old Sasikala who was probably one of the few occupants of the Chief Minister's Veda Nilayam residence at Poes Garden besides assistants and officials....