Usurper’s Eyes on the Powerless: V.K. Sasikala
In a place where someone would stab you in the back with the very same hand they used to sip a cup of tea at your home, vigilance is the need of the hour. As the old adage goes, “Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer.” To find an example of this, one needn’t set his gazes too far.
A diplomat in every sense of the word, Jayalalithaa was ever-mindful to keep her aides only at arm’s length. After nearly being ousted from her party by M.G.R, the very same man responsible for her ingression into politics, she quickly extricated the word “friendship” from her dictionary. Enter one V.K. Sasikala in the early 1980s. Money never came easily to her, but this did not dissuade her from pursuing her passion in cinema. She kept her hopes alive by means of a humble cassette rental shop. However, when they were particularly strapped for funds after her husband lost his job in the Emergency of ’76, she prevailed upon him to introduce her to Jayalalithaa. In compliance with this, he requested the then-District Collector of Cuddalore to introduce his wife to Jayalalithaa as someone who could help record party functions. Steadily on the rise at the time, she agreed to this and took Sasikala under her wing. And thus, the seeds of political alliance were sown.
Like any other relationship, this wasn’t without its fair share of bumps. Sasikala began to build a foundation of trust by providing her family members as well as a troop of forty henchmen at Jayalalithaa’s beck and call as and when their protection was needed. Following M.G.R.’s death in 1987, when the intonations calling her an apostate grew louder, they ensured that she was kept out of harm’s way.
In 1995, Jayalalithaa held a lavish celebration for her newly-adopted stepson’s wedding, who coincidentally happened to be a nephew of Sasikala’s. To call it “over-the-top” would be an understatement. Pictures of the duo garnished in the most nauseatingly exorbitant of jewellery money did the rounds.
This saw them morphing into the poster-children for political corruption. The death knell for their reign sounded when no other than Rajnikanth himself spoke out against them, saying, “If Jayalalithaa is voted back to power, even God cannot save Tamil Nadu.” Arrests were made, and just as swiftly came their subsequent releases. However, the coldness that began to set in between the two never completely thawed after this.
The years went by, and Sasikala withdrew further into the shadows of obscurity. Her political contributions toward the growth of her state never really exceeded beyond her sycophancy towards its Chief Minister. In 2011, Jayalalithaa had an inkling that something untoward was in the making. Not one to allow any threats to her sovereignty as it were, she expelled Sasikala as well as anyone else who seemed to be in close association with her.
2016 came along, and with it brought Jayalalithaa’s two-month period spent at the Apollo Hospital. Only someone thorough in the art of subterfuge could so cleverly make the transition from being barred entry into the patient’s room, to being the picture of bereavement at her funeral. That was not without ensuring that shutterbugs captured her tear-stained cheeks from every angle. Unbiased onlookers watched in disbelief at the drastic turn of events that followed her demise. The billboards donning testaments of Amma’s grandeur and valour began to inexplicably have pictures of Sasikala standing beside her, flashing the same trademark peace symbol.
Of all the political brouhaha that was taking place, the one that left a particularly unpleasant taste was the slandering campaign between Sasikala and Jayalalithaa’s hitherto unknown niece. The two engaged in an unbecoming mudslinging campaign, sparring for the title of “Chinamma”, or younger mother. Paneerselvam, who had frequently taken the reigns from Jayalalithaa during her various bouts of imprisonment while holding the office of Chief Minister, had once again been called upon to do the job in her absence. The premonitions in everyone’s mind as to how long this would last proved to be right much sooner than anticipated. In a matter of a couple of months, Sasikala, not content with being the General Secretary of AIADMK, attempted a coup of the Chief Minister’s seat.
The gavels of Justice, however, swung in a trice and thwarted her plans. Suddenly, she had been booked in the Disproportionate Assets case she had been embroiled in since the ‘90s, but had successfully managed to evade until now As a cloud of uncertainty hangs over the future of Tamil Nadu’s prospects of finding an unfaltering leader, that they will persevere through this is something that is beyond any doubt. In the course of the last two years, the state has weathered devastating floods and even a cyclone that left it submerged without electricity or supplies.
It has witnessed the death of someone who was seen as more of a coveted messiah to the masses than a member of Parliament, and citizens coming out in cavalcades to demonstrate against the Jallikattu ban. For a people as resilient as they are, this is not more than something to lick their wounds from and soldier on.