CHENNAI: Sasikala Natarajan, the closest friend of former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa, has formally taken over the AIADMK’s leadership. Ms Natarajan, 54, took charge as the AIADMK’s general secretary this afternoon, a post held by Ms Jayalalithaa till she died on December 5.
Addressing party workers, Ms Natarajan broke down while talking about Ms Jayalalithaa, and said, “For Amma party was life, and for me Amma is my life.”
Ms Natarajan, also called ‘Chinamma’ (mother’s younger sister), paid tributes to party founder MGR and Ms Jayalalithaa at the AIADMK office before taking charge.
Banners of Ms Natarajan and Ms Jayalalithaa dotted the route to the party headquarters. AIADMK cadre assembled outside the party headquarters in Chennai to show their support for ‘Chinamma’, and held up posters of her.
Ms Natarajan’s takeover as AIADMK chief was announced on Thursday 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.
O Panneerselvam is the first Chief Minister from AIADMK who will not be the general secretary of the party. It became a tradition as Ms Jayalalithaa held both posts, unchallenged.
Ms Natarajan was kept away from party and government functioning by Ms Jayalalithaa while she was alive, but her considerable influence over key decisions is well-known.
As lakhs paid tribute to their “Amma” after her death, Ms Natarajan emerged as a strong presence by her side, exuding power as top party leaders, including Mr Panneerselvam, retreated to the sidelines.
Sources say Mr Panneerselvam wants to serve out his term and the BJP, which rules at the centre, too has openly said it backs the man elected by the AIADMK’s legislators as chief minister.