- Sasikala new AIADMK legislature party leader; will soon be Chief Minister
- She is not an elected Tamil Nadu lawmaker, had never held any party post
- Opposition has opposed her elevation saying she has no experience
VK Sasikala, the longtime friend of J Jayalalithaa who emerged from the shadows after her death, will take over as the next Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu – a remarkable rise for a person who has never fought an election.
Even before the ruling AIADMK’s lawmakers elected Ms Sasikala as their chief, setting the stage for her new role, outgoing Chief Minister O Panneerselvam or OPS, always the stand-in Chief Minister, had signed his letter of resignation.
Sources say the oath ceremony may be held on Thursday; February 9 is believed to be an auspicious date. Governor C Vidyasagar Rao is in Delhi for the wedding of a union minister’s son. His absence from Tamil Nadu at this time has driven speculation that the Centre is not happy at the AIADMK’s decision to elevate Ms Sasikala.
The 61-year-old former video cassette seller, who has been seen in Jayalalithaa’s signature green in recent photo-ops, faces more than a few challenges as she prepares to rule one of India’s most politically vital states.
Within six months after taking over, she has to win an election and become a part of the state assembly.
During that period, she is expecting an important verdict. The Supreme Court is expected to decide in May on a petition challenging her acquittal in a disproportionate wealth case.
She also faces potential trouble from Jayalalithaa’s niece Deepa Jayakumar, who recently announced her political debut and claimed to be the true bearer of her aunt’s legacy.
On why Ms Sasikala waited all this time after Jayalalithaa’s death on December 5 to step into her shoes, sources say “Chinamma” or “younger sister to Amma” – as she is known in the party – was in mourning. Winning the perception battle is another test for Ms Sasikala, with a section of the party as well as the opposition DMK questioning her credentials as successor to Jayalalithaa – who rose to power after long years of struggle.
“The people of Tamil Nadu did not vote for anyone from Jayalalithaa’s household to become CM,” tweeted DMK’s MK Stalin.
Ms Sasikala’s supporters say despite her inexperience, she has managed to hold the grieving party together and stave off a power tussle between veterans.