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CHENNAI: Tamil Nadu chief minister and AIADMK supremo J Jayalalithaa on Monday expelled her close associate, Sasikalaa Natarajan, and 13 others, mostly Sasikalaa’s relatives, from the party’s primary membership. Long regarded as an important member of the CM’s household, Sasikalaa also left Jayalalithaa’s Poes Garden bungalow with her brood.
A terse AIADMK press release said Sasikalaa and 11 of her family members “are expelled from the primary membership of the party and relieved of their posts with immediate effect” without giving any reason for their expulsion.
Sasikalaa’s banishment comes in the wake of a series of resignations and sackings of key officials, apparently appointed at Sasikalaa’s behest. Sections within AIADMK burst into celebrations, setting off fireworks in front of AIADMK headquarters in Chennai and revealing the extent of dominance Sasikalaa had over the party. According to party sources, she had antagonized many with her alleged efforts to ensure key posts in the party and state administration to those close to her and from her Thevar community.
Relatives of J Jayalalithaa’s once close aide Sasikalaa Natarajan are shocked at the CM’s decision to oust her from the party. A nephew of Sasikalaa, not willing to be named, told TOI, “It was shocking. But we always respect Amma. She has all the right to take any decision. We hope everything will be resolved soon.”
Theories abound for Jayalalithaa’s move to snap her 30-year ties with Sasikalaa. A party source said one cause of Sasikalaa’s exit could be Jaya’s bid to reassert herself within the party and douse speculation about possible machinations by Sasikalaa’s family members to play greater role in the party. The statement listed the names of Sasikalaa’s husband M Natarajan and his brother M Ramachandran and several of her nephews, including T T V Dinakaran, an ex-MP, V Bhaskaran, in charge of J J TV, V N Sudhakaran, Jaya’s erstwhile foster son, Dr G Venkatesh, and her brother V K Diwakar.
Sasikalaa’s relative Ravanan, who oversees party affairs in Coimbatore, Mohan, who heads a city-based distillery, and Rajarajan, son-in-law of her niece Ilavarasi, were also expelled. A second release, issued a few hours later, announced the expulsion of two more relatives of Sasikalaa, including V Mahadevan, former state secretary of the Jayalalithaa Forum, and his brother V Thangamani. “Jayalalithaa’s move is aimed at giving a better sense of direction to the administration and ensure cleaner governance. It is also to ensure that no extra-constitutional authority directs the government and proper democratic functioning of the party founded by MGR,” said a source close to the AIADMK supremo.
This is the second time in their long association that Jaya has distanced herself from Sasikalaa. In May 1996, soon after her party’s disastrous assembly elections, she announced her estrangement with Sasikalaa, saying she was snapping ties out of respect for the sentiments of the people and partymen. There were widespread allegations then that the extravagant display of wealth during the wedding of Sudhakaran, Sasikalaa’s nephew Jayalalithaa’s foster son, contributed to the party’s electoral setback in ’96. But the two soon got back together to face a slew of corruption charges. “Such a patch up is unlikely now. Jayalalithaa has put aside her emotions in the larger interests of the state,” said the source.
There were indications a week ago that all wasn’t well in Poes Garden. OSD A Panneerselvam, a Sasikalaa nominee, quit from a key post created to oversee rollout of several welfare measures. DSP K Thirumalaisamy, the CM’s personal security officers and known to be a strong Sasikalaa supporter, was shifted. The CM also met some key ministers, and party seniors, directing them not to heed Sasikalaa’s instructions.
A source said one cause of Sasikalaa’s exit could be Jaya’s bid to reassert herself within the party and douse speculation about possible machinations by Sasikalaa’s family to play greater role
Violet, a Class XII Student from Tiruvallur, Tamil Nadu, is a proud owner of a brand new laptop. She’s among 119 students from two schools in the district to take home a laptop.
“I had access to computer only at my school. Now I can use it anytime I want and it’ll help me in my studies and score better in exams,” said Violet.
Daily-wage agricultural labourer N Devaki,65, received a cow as a gift which she says will bring her a regular income to support her at her age. Around 82 others were given cows and goats by the government.
N Devaki said, “I don’t have any regular income. I work in farms for daily wages, my son’s gone away and lives separately. Now I have only this cow to support me.”
Latha Ganesan and 474 other homemakers, meanwhile, will take home a mixer, grinder and a fan each.
Jayalalithaa’s government will spend more than Rs 2000 crore on these freebies – but the Chief Minister has an answer to those who question such spending.
“Such schemes meant for the betterment of the economically poor so that everyone can enjoy equal benefits and to improve their economic conditions and quality of life are being dubbed by many as freebies. No one with any knowledge of economics will speak like this” said Jayalalithaa.
Freebies including mixers, grinder, fans, laptops and cattle worth over Rs 73 lakh were distributes on Friday to the beneficiaries.
While such measures are being criticised by many, the Chief Minister continues to defend them saying they are welfare measures aimed at improving the standard of living of the economically poor.
For women holding undergraduate degree or diploma, the assistance has been hiked from Rs.25,000 to Rs.50,000. In the case of poor women, it will be Rs.25,000. For both categories, the 4 gm gold will be given free.
At a function held at the Secretariat, the Chief Minister gave away gold coins and cheques to seven beneficiaries each of the two schemes.
An official said that the government had decided the modality of gold coin procurement. An order was likely to be issued in a couple of days. Public sector banks might be roped in for the implementation of the scheme.
Ms. Jayalalithaa also presented sanction orders to seven beneficiaries of the pension scheme for a host of persons, including senior citizens, persons with disability and destitute women and widows. The monthly assistance has been increased from Rs.500 to Rs.1,000. Approximately 23.65 lakh persons will be covered under the scheme. The Chief Minister gave away cash awards and certificates to 78 students who secured the first three ranks in the 10th standard and 12th standard examinations. The cash incentive totalled Rs.14.2 lakh.
In the 12th standard examination, cash award of Rs.50,000 was given to the topper, Rs.30,000 to a student who finished second and Rs.20,000 each to four students who got the third rank.
In respect of the Matriculation and Secondary School Leaving Certificate (SSLC) streams, the cash award of Rs.25,000 was given to eight students; Rs.20,000 each to 20 students and Rs.15,000 each to 44 students.
Ruling DMK and AIADMK are locked in a close race for electoral supremacy in the April 13 Tamil Nadu Assembly polls with both sewing up formidable alliances, setting the stage for one of the fiercest battles ever.
Both the major Dravidian parties have been winning the elections alternately since 1989 and AIADMK taking the lead in bringing all major opposition parties under its umbrella has made the contest a much closer one than ever before.
DMK has retained its seven-year old ally Congress, considered to be the third largest party in the state, besides the most backward Vanniars based Pattali Makkal Katchi, Dalit-based Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi, Kongu Makkal Katchi (KMK) and the IUML.
Jayalalithaa has sprung a surprise ahead of the April 13 assembly polls in Tamil Nadu. She has fielded an AIADMK veteran who has earned a name for himself by running a successful free coaching centre for IAS aspirants to take on the DMK’s heir apparent M. K. Stalin.
Her choice of Saidai S. Duraisamy for the newly carved Kolathur assembly seat clearly shows that she wants to give the DMK heavyweight a run for his money.
A former AIADMK legislator of the MGR era, the dhoti-clad Duraisamy, 59, has proved to be a politician with a difference.
During his heyday in politics, he was the powerful AIADMK district secretary in south Chennai. But then, for a long time, the amiable Duraisamy kept a low profile and engaged himself in charitable work.
On Saturday morning, members of the AIADMK’s seat-sharing committee, O.S. Panneerselvam and K.A. Sengottaiyan, met Mr. Vaiko at Thayagam, the headquarters of the party and had a discussion for more than an hour.
Sources said the AIADMK has made an offer of 13 seats to the MDMK.
The offer has come on the day the MDMK has convened a high-level committee to discuss the question of seat-sharing. The high level committee meeting will be followed by a meeting of district secretaries and various other committees. The AIADMK’s offer is being discussed in the meetings.