Sasikala likely to take oath as Tamil Nadu’s next ‘Amma’ on Feb. 9

Chennai, Feb. 6 (ANI): V.K. Sasikala is likely to take over as Tamil Nadu’s next Chief Minister on February 9.

On Sunday, she was unanimously elected as the leader of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam’s (AIADMK) legislature party.

The AIADMK said that it was unwise for the party and government to have different power centres in the state and therefore, vociferously demanded Sasikala’s elevation and O. Panneerselvam’s removal.

Panneerselvam, the current incumbent of the post who proposed Sasikala’s name at the party’s internal meeting yesterday afternoon, announced his resignation soon after.

In her four-minute speech, Sasikala expressed her gratitude to the elected representatives and party workers for “shattering the dreams of rivals who wanted to see the party split.”

She praised Panneerselvam who, she said, stood loyal whenever the party faced tough times and when there were difficulties in Jayalalithaa continuing as the chief minister.

Sasikala is likely to take her oath as Tamil Nadu Chief Minister on Thursday.

She will now meet Governor Vidyasagar Rao to stake her claim to form the government.

Meanwhile, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) leader T.K.S. Elangovan said, “No party can go against wishes of the people. The MLAs might have chosen Sasikala, whether the people will accept her as the Chief Minister has to be seen. The future of Tamil Nadu has spoiled since 2011 when the AIADMK came to power.”

Resonating similar sentiments, Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha, Mallikarjun Kharge told ANI, “Sasikala Natarajan isn’t the primary member of her party. If such people will run the government then it isn’t a good message for democracy.”

Sasikala is not a member of the legislature, something the country’s Constitution requires her to remedy within six months.

While Sasikala has neither been an elected member of the Tamil Nadu Assembly nor held any official post in the government, she was considered to be the closest aide of Jayalalithaa. She had a considerable say in appointments and in the selection of candidates.

What her hold is at the grassroots level of the party and in politics remains to be seen.

Jayalalithaa was introduced to Sasikala – a former video store owner – in the 1980s and over the years, she became a permanent presence in the actor-turned-politician’s her life and home.

The former chief minister described Sasikala as the “sister I never had.”

Following Jayalalithaa’s death on December 5, it was the 61-year-old Sasikala who performed her last rites.

On December 31, she formally took over as general secretary of the AIADMK, fuelling speculation that she would, eventually, take charge as Tamil Nadu Chief Minister.

Speculation of Sasikala taking over as Chief Minister by the end of January were strong but the massive protests across the state over demanding the removal of the ban on the bull-taming festival of Jallikattu delayed it.

Former union home minister P. Chidambaram said it is the right of AIADMK MLAs to elect their leader, adding that it is the right of the people to ask if the leader deserves to be the Chief Minister.

“Looking back with pride, TN CM chair was occupied by Kamaraj and Anna. AIADMK and PEOPLE OF TAMILNADU are now moving in opposite directions,” he added.

Karti P. Chidambaram, son of former Union Cabinet minister P Chidambaram, commented on Twitter that it was a shame for Tamil Nadu and the legislative Assembly (elected for a five-year term in early 2016, with an AIADMK majority) should be dissolved.

However, the journey ahead for Sasikala, who is slated to become Chief Minister, is going to be challenging, both on the administrative and political fronts.

On the political front, Sasikala’s top priority would be to get elected to the assembly.

The constitutional requirement is that this has to be done within six months of becoming the Chief Minister.

At present, only one seat is lying vacant, which is R.K. Nagar in Chennai.

Besides, elections to local bodies will be a major test for her to demonstrate and establish her political credentials. The polls are likely to be held this summer.

On the administrative front, the existing spell of severe drought, demonetisation and impending uncertainties in the event of the introduction of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) are all expected to have an adverse effect on the overall economy of the state.