Jayalalithaa & Sasikala: Two Similar Yet Different Power Struggles
The turmoil in AIADMK reminds one of the power tussle that Jaya had to face after MGR, writes Dhamayanthi Nizhal.
Years have gone by. The longish history of Tamil Nadu politics has seen very few female leaders. The rare exceptions of women who became state CMs are J Jayalalithaa and Janaki, MGR’s wife who headed Tamil Nadu for 24 days. And now Sasikala hopes to hold the reins of the state.
In a culture which lauds the motherly sentiment and names rivers after women, here stands a lady totally unaccepted by the Tamil mob. And now arises the question: Why all this hatred towards Sasikala and will she crown herself Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu or not?
Jaya’s Entry Fraught with Opposition
The first woman to emerge as a powerful Chief Minister of the state was Jayalalithaa. It wasn't that easy a journey as it sounds. With Jayalalithaa penning a novel in 1980 called Oruthike Sontham, the murmurs that it was based on her relationship with the then Chief Minister MGR grew stronger.
She was then about to write about him in the magazine Kumudam in the column Manam Thiranthu Pesugiren (I speak with an open heart). Announcements were made but MGR immediately inducted her into the ADMK and promised her a suitable post. And the column was never written. She declared that due to unavoidable reasons, she could not speak. It was then that MGR introduced her at the Cuddalore ADMK meet amid great opposition.
Difficult Road to Power
With Jayalalithaa overseeing the midday meal scheme (MGR’s pet project), he gave her new responsibilities. And this created rivals within her own party. Many senior leaders wanted to expel her, and she therefore had to hold her own despite repeated complaints against her to the party leader.
None of this happened in Sasikala's ‘political life’. Jayalalithaa, on the other hand, withstood the pressure she was confronted with. She made sure the opposition she faced melted away, with the senior leaders literally falling at her feet.
KP Ramalingam, who had pushed her aside from MGR’ s funeral van, was made to wear just a jatti (underpants) when he was arrested and photographed. A photo showing another leader, KSSR, falling at Jayalalitha’s feet was splashed in the dailies. ST Somasundaram was made to dangle out of her car. It was all plain political vendetta.
Sasikala faces a different scenario. Though seen as someone who assisted Jayalalithaa for years, Sasikala is however considered a political novice. And her perceived attempt to force her way into Tamil Nadu’s seat of power has also not been received well by the people.
Hat Trick of Women CMs?
Sasikala's chosen task of using power politics to become CM is not as easy as that of Jayalalithaa or even Janaki. That’s because social media now gives a voice to the voiceless. Sasikala now has to wait as the political uncertainty deepens, with the Governor not giving dates for the swearing-in ceremony and the chief secretary resigning for personal reasons.
Janaki's political portrait lacks charm. Just to pose a threat to Jayalalitha immediately after MGR' s death, she wore the mantle of her deceased husband. But she soon lost out due to a lack of political appeal.
What Janaki fought desperately for is what Sasikala is also fighting for. Their struggle is identical. Unlike Jayalalitha, who was supported by Rajiv Gandhi, the other two had no backing.
People Unwilling to Accept Sasikala
With the Supreme Court verdict her disproportionate assets case expected in a week, Panneerselvam’s dramatic revolt, and the Central government’s animosity, it is interesting what Sasikala’s next move will be. And that will decide whether she will be consigned to history or win the battle for Tamil Nadu.
The hatred towards her in the Tamil mob’s psyche and the adulation Paneerselvam has received thereby are a result of the people’s rejection of brutal power games in politics. With Sasikala’s gender identity being brushed under the carpet, it’s her political aura – or lack of it – that will now decide her future.
(The writer is a lyricist, poet and author. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)
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