Why is Everyone Hounding Sasikala?

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Could it be the idea of an erstwhile petty video shop owner becoming the state’s Chief Minister perhaps too much to take? Smacking of a drama that Kollywood is famous for – with lots of suspected intrigue, behind the scene manoueverings and maybe a sinister act or two to add more ‘mirch’ to the unfolding drama that excites the imagination – just unacceptable? The ‘Manargudi Mafia’s influence as Sasikala’s family and friends (they come from a small town called Manargudi in Tamilnadu) are disparagingly and even fearfully referred to by the general populace, to all intents and purposes did pervade every nook and cranny of the Tamilnadu  at one point. Until that is like in all best-selling potboilers just when the plot began to thicken a fly in the ointment appeared. In this case, it was an unlikely friend. Jayalalithaa was warned off by an erstwhile chief of Gujarat. Real life stories of poisoning, forgery, clandestine meetings, tantric rituals and dangerously imminent coup attempts surfaced. And it soon resulted in the Manargudi mafia being kicked bag, baggage and out of Poes Garden as well as Fort St. George. Yet within months Sasikala was back but supposedly without the mafia. Nevertheless, so entrenched is her family in Tamilnadu’s commercial fabric that it seems difficult to separate one from the other. Sreelata profiles the meteoric rise of Chinamma, her ability to pull strings from jail, reasserting the political narrative from Chennai that we are so used to, exclusively for Different Truths.

What has Sasikala done that has not been done before? When Jayalalithaa went to jail didn’t she appoint O.P. Paneerselvam Chief Minister? True both she and he were elected representatives and Sasikala is not but it’s not the first time that this has happened is it?  Didn’t Rabri Devi function as her ’s puppet not so long ago? So what’s new?

Could it be the idea of an erstwhile petty video shop owner becoming the state’s Chief Minister perhaps too much to take? Smacking of a drama that Kollywood is famous for – with lots of suspected intrigue, behind the scene manoueverings and maybe a sinister act or two to add more ‘mirch’ to the unfolding drama that excites the imagination – just unacceptable? Or could it simply be because of the ease with which she managed the coup that caught everyone napping? In any case, whipping up across the state with unabashed glee every channel and its acolyte have been going hammer and tongs at the imbroglio in Chennai trying to portray a miscarriage of justice whereas it is legally at least, simply not.

Public sentiment might well be for various reasons against the idea of Sasikala occupying Amma’s throne. But our Constitution tells us that two conditions need to be fulfilled for any person to occupy the state’s first seat: (A) They need to be recommended by the outgoing CM and (B) They need to have the support of the majority of the legislators. And both have been fulfilled. O.P. Paneerselvam himself proposed Sasikala’s name, which was supported by 134 MLAs. If OPS had been confident of himself he could have refused to resign. And not carried his resignation to the Governor or recommended Sasikala. Having done so what leg did he really think he had to stand on? If he hadn’t resigned chances are that he would have continued as Chief Minister with Madam Sasikala safely tucked away in jail. Sadly his tardy rebellion came too late for him and the rest as they say is history. And S Palaniappan’s horoscope evidently read better. With an evidently astute Sasikala supposedly pulling the strings from a cell he appears to be comfortably set for the next three years and more unless another drama with a much more popular sell-by- date takes place. Those strings could well be what most believe the ’s purse strings. With that firmly in Chinamma’s hand no one looks like jumping ship at least for now however much OPS might plaintively cry foul.

The ‘Manargudi Mafia’s influence as Sasikala’s family and friends (they come from a small town called Manargudi in Tamilnadu) are disparagingly and even fearfully referred to by the general populace, to all intents and purposes did pervade every nook and cranny of the Tamilnadu government at one point. Until that is like in all best-selling potboilers just when the plot began to thicken a fly in the ointment appeared. In this case, it was an unlikely friend. Jayalalithaa was warned off by an erstwhile chief of Gujarat. Real life stories of poisoning, forgery, clandestine meetings, tantric rituals and dangerously imminent coup attempts surfaced. And it soon resulted in the Manargudi mafia being kicked bag, baggage and woman out of Poes Garden as well as Fort St. George. Yet within months Sasikala was back but supposedly without the mafia. Nevertheless, so entrenched is her family in Tamilnadu’s commercial fabric that it seems difficult to separate one from the other. And that is perhaps where this larger than life extraordinarily riveting tale is heading. For with Amma gone and the Chinamma in jail, her husband and family appear to be back on the scene with a vengeance.

Now, into this melee jumps in the niece. Supported by Sasikala’s detractors Deepa fancies herself the rightful heir to her aunt’s not only political legacy but with a supportive brother in tow to her financial legacy as well. With her brother Deepak offering to pay the 100 crores levied on their aunt by way of a massive fine by the Supreme Court, the die has well and truly been cast. ‘We are her heirs’ he says ‘The will states so’. The question is why was there no mention of the will till date? So now apart from the sinister shenanigans surrounding Jayalalithaa’s death we have the mystery of the missing-till- it-surfaces will as well.

In any case, for all those who shout meritocracy let it be said that it is an alien concept as far as India i.e. Bharat is concerned. Nepotism runs strong in our blood. We do not find anything wrong in promoting the interests of our near and dear. One ’s rise is a whole clan’s success in every way. We are not a nation of immigrants where merit and ability allow you to climb the ladder of success. We are a country proudly and strongly rooted in tradition where a maharaja’s son succeeds a maharaja, a cobbler’s son takes over his father’s business and yes a political scion takes over his or her political party’s reins. What do you think Uddav Thackeray and Akhilesh Yadav are at? Son and heir truly in every sense of the word. It’s another matter that our leaders, who won us our have attempted to cobble together a based on the Western model. But over time this appears to be, bar the shouting, wearing thin. So why are we crying ourselves hoarse over something which is so much a part of our DNA? True, we have a Narendra Modi as the PM, but a single swallow does not a summer make.

So then what prevents a friend, niece or nephew from taking on the mantle of the Chief Minister or inheriting her chair?

We eagerly await the next installment.

©Sreelata Menon

Photos from the internet.

#Sasikala #TamilNadu #Politics #ManargudiMafia #Nepotism #CheifMinister #Government #CoverStory

Sreelata Menon

Sreelata Menon

When computers hit the scene, life changed for Sreelata Menon. A Masters in History (Mumbai University) she was with the Onlooker and world Trade Magazines before teaching History to undergraduates and doing a stint in an advertising agency. A web content writer, she wrote blogs on freelance writing, and current happenings for online and print publications. Author of ‘Freelance Writing for the Newbie Writer’ her books also include Guru Nanak and Indira Gandhi for Penguin-Puffin.
Sreelata Menon

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