CHENNAI: Sasikala Natarajan will formally take over as AIADMK general secretary. Keeping a seat for J Jayalalithaa, who died earlier this month, Tamil Nadu’s ruling AIADMK decided in a meeting today to hand over the party’s leadership to her closest friend Sasikala Natarajan.
On January 2, the 54-year-old will formally take over as AIADMK general secretary, a post held by Ms Jayalalithaa till she died on December 5. On cue, the solo Jayalalithaa banner outside the party office was replaced by one showing the former Chief Minister presenting flowers to Ms Natarajan. Slogans of “Long live Chinamma (mother’s younger sister)” were shouted.
“Like we saw MGR (MG Ramachandran, AIADMK founder) in Jayalalithaa, we see Jayalalithaa in Sasikala,” said Tamil Nadu Chief Minister O Panneerselvam, whose place in the party’s power structure after Ms Natarajan’s elevation has been widely speculated.
Soon after the meeting, Mr Panneerselvam and other party leaders headed to the palatial home in Poes Garden that Ms Jayalalithaa shared with Ms Natarajan, a former video store owner. They later said she had accepted all the decisions taken at the meeting.
‘Sasikala has said she will follow in Jayalalithaa’s footsteps,” said Mr Panneerselvam, who was sworn in as Chief Minister hours after Ms Jayalalithaa’s death was declared.
Ms Natarajan’s takeover as AIADMK chief was announced by party leaders as a given even though she is not technically qualified; the general secretary has to have completed five years as an active member.