Chennai: “Madam has begun the war,” said a Sasikala supporter when asked to comment on the recent developments on the AIADMK and out-of-AIADMK front in Tamil Nadu.
The supporter did not want to comment further, not wanted to be identified. “Let madam come out and start her tours to meet her cadre, then we all will talk to you,” said the supporter.
The use of “Madam” was reminiscent of how this same supporter, a former spokesperson of the AIADMK, used to refer to former chief minister J Jayalalithaa.
Yes, the same Jayalalithaa who had once been pushed out of a gun carriage carrying the mortal remains of her mentor and former chief minister MG Ramachandran.
Viewers of Doordarshan back in 1987 let out a gasp watching the funeral procession. The Tamil cine star-turned-AIADMK star campaigner, who went on to be a Rajya Sabha MP, was being pushed down a gun carriage by someone whose identity is not revealed in the footage.
Jayalalithaa was pushed down physically, only to be catapulted politically. Swearing-in for more than four terms after the AIADMK that she led from the front had been elected to power. And three decades later to be carried with full state honours in a gun carriage to be laid to rest next to her mentor’s mortal remains.
She walked out of the famed Poes Garden residence in a saree that was the exact same olive green colour her close aide Jayalalithaa had adorned. Hairdo almost exactly the same, she stepped out of the AIADMK party headquarters’ first floor door and appeared at the balcony waving, almost exactly as Jayalalithaa would have done.
But things weren’t the same. She was not Jayalalithaa. She was Sasikala. The one under a cloud. The one that tabloids had even accused of pushing Jayalalithaa to the floor following which the then chief minister had to be taken away in an ambulance to Apollo Hospitals in the middle of the night. The one who would allegedly not even allow the Governor of the state to walk into the ICU to meet the ailing CM. And the one who saw Jayalalithaa breathe her last.
Sasikala soon went to prison as the second accused in a disproportionate assets case for having colluded with the first accused, J Jayalalithaa, who was no more.
Four years on, she was released and walked out saying she would continue to work for the party. But Sasikala soon realised there was not going to be any space for her to even have a dialogue with the AIADMK.
She distanced herself from her own nephew who was visibly taken by surprise when ahead of the April 2021 assembly polls, Sasikala announced that she was stepping down from politics.
The AIADMK suffered a defeat in the elections, but the dual leadership of Edappadi K Palaniswami and O Panneerselvam did not crumble. The relationship saw some flip-flop, but did not reach a tipping point. Both grit their teeth and held together, the one-point agenda clearly being that Sasikala must be pushed down.
Sasikala is pushed down.
Her telephone conversations with supporters are being released daily. She is heard saying “I know they are fighting like brothers would fight in a family. I have to be the ‘amma’ and step in and resolve the disputes within the family. I will come and do that soon”.
Some young IT professionals are working out of her T Nagar residence in Chennai to keep her relevant on social media platforms.
Tamil audience is deeply moved by scenes like being pushed down the gun carriage and then the protagonist taking the challenge head on and emerging as an invincible power.
Sasikala did try something, she thumped her hand on Jayalalithaa’s grave vigorously and muttered something in full media glare. They called it a ‘sabatham’ or a vow she had taken. The scene did not really touch a nerve among the audience that was already overwhelmed by the passing away of an epic leader.
But the canvas is wide open for Sasikala to script a brand new scene. Audio clips are probably just the beginning.