V K Sasikala

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A profile

The Times of India


In December 2016, the ruling AIADMK party passed a resolution to work under the leadership of VK Sasikala, a close aide of former Chief Minister and party leader Jayalalithaa.

Hailing from a humble background from Mannargudi in south Tamil Nadu, 'Chinnamma' as Sasikala was known in her circles gradually gained acceptance in the Veda Nilayam residence, and even wielded influence in AIADMK at one point of time

Sasikala used to run a video store and record weddings attended by Jayalalithaa. VK Sasikala was introduced to Jayalalithaa by IAS officer-turned-politician VS Chandralekha, whose Public Relation Officer R Natarajan was Sasikala’s husband. Jayalalithaa and Sasikala Natarajan’s friendship grew and she became her closest confidante, even being in-charge of her house.

Jayalalithaa was so fond of Sasikala that, much to the chagrin of the CM’s family, she spent crores of rupees on the wedding of her foster son Sudhakaran, who is actually Sasikala’s nephew. He married Sathyalakshmi, the granddaughter of veteran actor Sivaji Ganesan. Not only that, Jayalalithaa chose to dress exactly like Sasikala at Sudhakaran’s wedding!

In 2011, Jayalalithaa and Sasikala Natarajan’s friendship saw a rift, much like Jayalalithaa and MGR’s earlier. Due to a misunderstanding, Jayalalithaa expelled Sasikala and her husband, and 11 other family members from the AIADMK. Sasikala left her family and returned to Amma, whom she called ‘Akka’ (elder sister). Sasikala used to accompany Jayalalithaa at various functions including the latter's election campaigns in her special vehicle, earning the sobriquet of 'Jayalalithaa's shadow' from detractors. Sasikala performed the final rituals in the Vaishnavite tradition to which Jayalalithaa belonged. Jayalalithaa’s nephew Deepak Jayakumar also accompanied Sasikala during the rites.

Sasikala’s ambitious family

Jayaraj Sivan, A family with many CM aspirants, Feb 06 2017: The Times of India


With Sasikala chosen chief minister, her family is all set to wield greater power in the administration.

There are at least half a dozen other power centres in the Mannargudi clan. However, the family is susceptible to oftchanging power matrix; till Jayalalithaa's demise, all family members were united, but turf war has broken out among prominent members of late.

Sasikala's husband M Natarajan is perhaps the only one in the family who has to operate through other members, because the relationship between the couple remains strained. Still, he is a power to reckon with and it is evident from the stream of visitors, mostly officials, to his Besant Nagar residence seeking favours like plum postings. Some have made it a practice to show up every morning and run errands.

Sasikala's brother Divakaran, sister-in-law Ilavarasi, her son Vivek, nephews T T V Dinakaran, Venkatesh and Jai Anand -the list of power centres is long. Every member of the family has some clout in the present dispensation.

Of late, Dinakaran and Ven katesh are seen as the most influential as they virtually stay at Poes Garden with their aunt.The two played a major role in packing off former adviser to government Sheela Balakrishnan and secretaries to the CM K N Venkataramanan and A Ramalingam. Except Ramalingam, the two were serving extended tenures after superannuation and were accused of pursuing their personal agenda in the administration.

The extended family is into a range of businesses from film making to media, distillery , rice mill and plantations. They own real estates across the state. Sasikala will have a tough time managing the turf war within the family. Sources close to the family said there are already signs of skirmishes over who should Sasikala listen to.With each one of them pursuing chief ministerial ambitions, it will never be a smooth sail for her. What could put the brakes on some are the pending cases against them.

Even when Sasikala had been staying with Jayalalithaa, the latter had unleashed the state police against many of Sasikala's family members, including Natarajan and Divakaran, in 2012 based on intelligence reports against them.Once Sasikala assumes office as CM, she would revamp the entire intelligence wing, said the source.

Dhinakaran

2017: His fall

V Mayilvaganan, TN crisis: How in-family feuds hastened Dhinakaran's fall from the top, April 20, 2017: The Times of India


HIGHLIGHTS

It was the complex equation of Sasikala family politics that ultimately led to the downfall of Dhinakaran

Dhinakaran enjoys the backing of Sasikala and her brother Sundaravathanam’s son Dr Venkatesh

The dramatic fall of T T V Dhinakaran had the BJP's signature written all over+ , but it could be rivalry within Sasikala's family that put the final nail in the coffin of his political career.

Soon after D Jayakumar announced the party's decision to keep away V K Sasikala and her family from the party, D Jeyanandh, son of Sasikala's brother Dhiwakaran welcomed the decision. Jeyanandh had said in his Facebook post, "Except Sasikala no one else....The decision taken by ministers now to set aside Sasikala's family was suggested by us before months...it is a late but wise decision."

The statement, coming from one of Sasikala's family members at a time when the clan is suffering the ignominy of being shown the door by ministers who had supported it till a few days ago, had surprised many. But party insiders in the inner ring of Sasikala family say the decision to oust Dhinakaran had Dhivakaran's green signal. Dhivakaran had a feud with Dhinakaran in getting the reins of the party after the demise of Jayalalithaa+ , but the latter outsmarted him. Dhivakaran's closeness to M Natarajan, who had a strained relationship with Sasikala, and statements insinuating the BJP's role in AIADMK fiasco, allegedly made Sasikala prefer Dhinakaran.

Subsequently, Dhinakaran also shot down a proposal to give a post to Jeyanandh in youth wing. In a television interview, Dhinakaran also categorically stated that none of the family members would be accommodated in the party ever. That left Dhivakaran fuming. It was during Mahadevan's funeral that Dhivakaran gave the green signal to his loyalists to move for the ouster of Dhinakaran+ . Party sources said two senior ministers from Kongu region, both loyal to Dhivakaran, were closeted with him for hours in Thanjavur during the funeral on April 16. It was after this meeting that both speeded up their moves against Dhinakaran.

Political career

Sasikala’s journey in politics

Sasikala’s long journey to the summit, Feb 6, 2017: The Times of India

From a video cassette pusher to the boss of Poes Garden two months ago, head of the AIADMK a month ago and stepping into the corridors of power at Fort St George in the coming days, V K Sasikala's rise has been meteoric in the last three decades.

A high school dropout from backwater Mannargudi in Tiruvarur district, Sasikala was introduced to Jayalalithaa in 1982 by the former's husband M Natarajan, then a government public relations officer. Since then, she became a regular in Jayalalithaa's house and the couple finally moved into it in 1988. But for brief periods in 1996 and 2012, when Jayalalithaa sent her out of No 81, Veda Nilayam, for anti-party activities, Sasikala had been staying with her. Even when her husband was thrown out of the house in 1990, she did not leave the place. When Jayalalithaa was hospitalised, she stood by her bed. After her death, Sasikala returned to Poes Garden and, as Jayalalithaa has not left any will behind, she continued to occupy the house that does not belong to her even today. And it is this house that she draws all her powers from and it is under the tutelage of Jayalalithaa that she learnt all the political manoeuvring that is now on display in abundant measure in Tamil Nadu.

Sasikala may lack the charisma of her leader, but is not a novice in politics. As Jayalalithaa remained out of reach for the rest of the party leaders, Sasikala became the intermediary and with that her importance kept growing. She travelled with Jayalalithaa like an aide wherever she went, but carved out a constituency for herself within the AIADMK by recommending many for important party posts and for fielding in elections. O Panneerselvam himself was promoted by none other than Sasikala and her nephew T T V Dinakaran. Never, ever did Jayalalithaa promote Sasikala as her political heir, but the importance of Sasikala's nominees kept growing in the party. Those investments are paying dividends now.

To save her own place in Jayalalithaa's house, Sasikala even disowned her husband and other family members. The relationship with Natarajan continues to be strained even today and he can reach out to her only through other members of the family.

Sasikala placed her confidants (mostly from her OBC thevar community) in key posts in the government too whenever the party was in power. Only after 2012 did Jayalalithaa keep her out of administrative matters, as a fallout of the proximity some officials gained to the CM. Sasikala's public image is that of an outsider trying to usurp power through the back door. Protests by AIADMK cadres and functionaries in some parts of the state in the wake of Jayalalithaa's demise further harmed her image. That, however, did not influence the AIADMK legislature party a bit. Within hours of Panneerselvam taking over as chief minister, there had been clamour from within his cabinet that he hand over the mantle to Sasikala.

Emerging from Jayalalithaa’s shadow

Jayaraj Sivan, How Sasikala emerged from Jayalalithaa’s shadow, Feb 6, 2017: The Times of India


HIGHLIGHTS

Sasikala’s rise has been meteoric in the last three decades

She was introduced to Jayalalithaa in 1982 by the former’s husband M Natarajan

Sasikala may lack the charisma of her leader but is not a novice in politics


From a video cassette pusher to boss of Poes Garden two months ago, head of AIADMK a month ago+ and soon to step into into the corridors of power at Fort St George, Sasikala's rise+ has been meteoric in the last three decades.

A high school dropout from Mannargudi in Tiruvarur district, Sasikala was introduced to Jayalalithaa in 1982 by the former's husband M Natarajan, then a government public relations officer. Since then, she became a regular in Jayalalithaa's house and the couple finally moved into it in 1988. But for brief periods in 1996 and 2012, when Jayalalithaa sent her out of No 81, Veda Nilayam, for anti-party activities, Sasikala had been staying with her. Even when her husband was thrown out of the house in 1990, she did not leave. The relationship with Natarajan continues to be strained even today. When Jayalalithaa was hospitalised, she stood by her bed. After her death, Sasikala returned to Poes Garden and, as Jayalalithaa has not left any will behind, she continued to occupy the house that does not belong to her even today. And it is this house that she draws all her powers from and it is under the tutelage of Jayalalithaa that she learnt all the political manoeuvring that is now on display in Tamil Nadu.

Sasikala may lack the charisma of her leader but is not a novice in politics. As Jayalalithaa remained out of reach for the rest of the party members, Sasikala+ became the intermediary and her importance kept growing. She travelled with Jayalalithaa wherever she went but carved out a constituency for herself within the AIADMK by recommending many for important party posts and for fielding in elections. O Panneerselvam himself was promoted by none other than Sasikala and her nephew T T V Dinakaran. Never, ever did Jayalalithaa promote Sasikala as her political heir but the importance of Sasikala's nominees kept growing in the party. Those investments are paying dividends now.

Sasikala placed her confidants (mostly from her OBC thevar community) in key posts in the government too whenever the party was in power. Only after 2012 did Jayalalithaa keep her out of administrative matters as a fallout of the proximity some officials gained to the CM. Sasikala's public image is that of an outsider trying to usurp power through the back door. Protests by AIADMK cadres in some parts of the state in the wake of Jayalalithaa's demise further harmed her image. That, however, did not influence the AIADMK legislature party a bit. Within hours of Panneerselvam taking over as CM, there had been clamour that he hand over the mantle to Sasikala+

Takes control of the party

Julie Mariappan, Sasikala reasserts herself as boss. Next stop CM chair?, Feb 5, 2017: The Times of India


HIGHLIGHTS

Sasikala has reasserted herself as the boss in both the party and the government

She has brought in a series of changes in the past couple of days

This has now set tongues wagging about the chief minister’s chair being her next stop.

After taking over the reins of the party, AIADMK general secretary V K Sasikala has now set tongues wagging about the chief minister's chair being her next stop.

Sasikala has reasserted herself as the boss in both the party and the government through a series of changes in the past couple of days —re-induction of some members in the party leadership, shunting out three bureaucrats from chief minister's office and convening a legislators' meeting on Sunday. Some insiders, however, say Sasikala is still testing the waters and may not yet take the top post in the government.

Fort St George, the seat of power in Tamil Nadu, is abuzz with murmurs of Sasikala's reassertion with adviser to government Sheela Balakrishnan and CM's secretaries K N Venkatramanan and A Ramalingam - all handpicked by the late J Jayalalithaa - leaving the CMO within 12 hours since Friday night. Almost simultaneously, a message was sent to MLAs to attend a meeting on Sunday, ostensibly to discuss the upcoming civic polls and take stock of the projects announced by the Jayalalithaa regime. "There is talk in the party that she may take over as the CM, maybe as early as Monday, but she appears to be just gauging things," said a senior leader. A few other leaders said Sasikala is closely watching the situation as OPS appears to be settling down in the CM's chair and Jayalalithaa's niece Deepa Jayakumar is planning a state-wide tour to meet AIADMK cadres.

Amajor shake-up is likely in the government as many IAS and IPS officials have been in the same post for many years, some for more than five years. Sasikala's husband M Natarajan is pushing for his friend and retired IAS officer A Panneerselvam's candidature for the post of officer on special duty. He had occupied the same post for a brief while in 2011 when Jayalalithaa returned to power. The growing acceptance of Panneerselvam in the bureaucracy also causes heartburns in the Sasikala camp. The "Sasikala for CM" chorus, which peaked after she took over the party reins, had mellowed down for a while. Her photographs were defaced in various parts of the state, shocking her supporters.

February 2017: In a race to be the CM of Tamil Nadu

Julie Mariappan, After resignation of Panneerselvam, Sasikala elected as legislative party leader of AIADMK, Feb 5, 2017: The Times of India


HIGHLIGHTS

AIADMK MLAs elected Sasikala as their legislature party leader

Panneerselvam proposed her name at the meeting of AIADMK legislators meeting.


AIADMK general secretary VK Sasikala was elected as legislature party leader by MLAs during a party meeting on 5th February, 2017, paving way for her to become Tamil Nadu chief minister. "Chinnamma all set to become the Next Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu," AIADMK said in a tweet.

Panneerselvam proposed her name at the meeting of AIADMK legislators, party leaders said. "I resigned and we elected Sasikala unanimously as leader of the party in assembly. All MLAs are in support," said Panneerselvam.

Legal battles

A backgrounder

A Subramani, Legal battles of Sasikala and the sword of Damocles, Feb 6, 2017: The Times of India


With several cases pending against VK Sasikala as well as the members of her extended family, legal observers wonder if it would be prudent on her part to take over as chief minister now. Key members of her family include Sasikala's husband M Natarajan, nephews T T V Dinakaran and V N Sudhagaran, her brother Divakaran, and her deceased brother's wife J Ilavarasi. There are next-gen persons, too, like Jaya Anand from Divakaran's family and Vivek from Ilavarasi's family who don't face any cases.

Sasikala's tryst with judicial proceedings started with that of Jayalalithaa, in 1996. Jayalalithaa suffered four convictions but wriggled out of all cases but one - the Rs 66.65 crore disproportionate assets case. Except the Pleasant Stay Hotels case, Sasikala was convicted in all other three cases along with Jayalalithaa. And the biggest test of all is the disproportionate assets case, the verdict of which has been pending before the Supreme Court since June 7, 2016. It will be out any time now, at least not later than May 2017, as one of the two judges is scheduled to retire by then.

Last week, Madras high court set aside Sasikala's discharge in at least four Enforcement Directorate-investigated cases, thereby exposing her to trial in all these cases. There is already an appeal by the ED pending in the Supreme Court relating to her non-appearance of ED summons in a FERA violation case. Her husband is still battling two cases relating to import of a Lexus car nearly 20 years ago. There were two parallel proceedings by the CBI and the ED. While he was convicted in the CBI case, and the appeal is pending in the high court, the ED proceedings have picked up momentum now before an economic offences court at Egmore in Chennai. Sasikalaa's nephew Dinakaran is facing the ED fine of Rs 28 crore imposed on him for FERA violations, which has now been confirmed by Madras HC. Last week the high court revived two more ED-probed JJTV transponder/uplinking fee cases against the former MP. V N Sudhagaran and J Ilavarasi are co-accused in the Rs 66.65-crore disproportionate assets case. Divakaran is facing at least two land grab cases, both registered by the Jayalaltihaa government in 2012

Nephew Dinakaran is Sasi's remote control

Julie Mariappan, Sasi's remote control: Kin once expelled by Jaya Feb 16 2017 : The Times of India


Hours before she was to surrender in Feb 2017 , Sasikala appointed her nephew TTV Dinakaran as AIADMK's deputy general secretary to helm of the party in her absence. In what could be seen as an ambitious move to wield control of the party despite her conviction in a DA case, she re-inducted into the party Dinakaran and a second nephew, S Venkatesh.

Jayalalithaa had expelled the two along with 12 others, including Sasikala and her husband M N Natarajan, in December 2011 for “treacherous“ acts against her. While Sasikala was reinducted three months later following a public apology for the “treacherous acts of her family members“, others were never again allowed into Poes Garden by the late chief minister.

The emerging power centre was visible when Dinakaran sat by Sasikala's side when she met governor C Vidyasagar Rao on February 9 to stake claim to form the state government. He also accompanied Edappadi K Palaniswami when he visited the Raj Bhavan on Wednesday .

“He is a good team leader and an acceptable face among the cadres as he takes everyone into his fold,“ said one of his former associates.“There was talk among seniors that Dinakaran should take over as general secretary but that did not happen,“ he said, adding, “It came as no surprise that Dinakaran became the war room manager for Sasikala after Jayalalithaa's death.“

Dinakaran's rise in public life began at Periakulam, the home turf of TN's caretaker chief minister O Panneerselvam. The Sasikala family's clout in Poes Garden was evident when Dinakaran was fielded from the Periakulam parliamentary constituency in the 1999 elections.

The outsider won by a margin of 45,000 votes, thanks to his poll manager O Panneerselvam, who was then the Periakulam municipal chairman. Dinaka ran had stayed in OPS's house during the campaign.

The modest and hard working Panneerselvam caught the attention of Dinakaran, which resulted in OPS taking over the hot seat of CM thrice, when Jayalalithaa had to vacate the seat following legal impediments. When Dinakaran failed to wrest the seat for a second term in 2004, Jayalalithaa offered him a Rajya Sabha seat within months.

But the elder son of Vanithamani, Sasikala's sister, was shown the door along with his brothers V Baskaran and V N Sudhakaran, the disowned foster son of Jayalalithaa, in 2011. “He could enter (the party) only after Amma's demise,“ said AIADMK leader Karuppasamy Pandian, who resigned from the post of organising secretary to protest against Dinakaran's appointment. Jayalalithaa had kept the post vacant for nearly 17 years.

Incidentally , the Madras high court has confirmed an order of the Foreign Exchange Regulation Act appellate board imposing a penalty of Rs 28 crore on Dinakaran in a case initiated by the Enforcement Directorate in 1996. The case was related to the receipt of over $10 million by Dinakaran in alleged contravention of FERA.

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