CHENNAI: AIADMK general secretary J Jayalalithaa has quietly reinstated Sasikalaa, her confidante who lives with her in her Poes Garden residence here, as a member of the party's executive committee.
While no official release was issued by the AIADMK about Sasikalaa's nomination to the party's executive committee, which includes 65 other women, the decision has been communicated to the party members. "This is nothing new. She has been a general council and executive committee member for several years now," observed an AIADMK senior. But significantly, this year, there is a clamour among Sasikalaa's relatives and influential members of the AIADMK hailing from her dominant Thevar community to also give her a key party post. Some are even suggesting the post of deputy general secretary.
"How does a post matter when Sasikalaa is practically running the party along with Amma?" remarked a former minister in the party. According to him, Jayalalithaa's long-time friend is an "excellent organiser" of field workers. "She knows every union and town secretary by name. She coordinates every day with the informal committees that the party has constituted in every region to monitor the functioning of party office-bearers. There is nothing that happens in the party that she does not know or is not aware of."
With Jayalalithaa having sidelined all the family members of Sasikalaa, including a couple of her high profile nephews, the more recent being Dr K Venkatesh, who was stripped off the post of the party's youth wing secretary, there is a feeling within the family that a member should have a formal representation in the party's top echelons. But focussing her stinging diatribes on Karunanidhi's indulgence of his family members and dynastic rule in the run up to the assembly election, Jayalalithaa may not be in a hurry to reward her closest friend with an influential post.
Sasikalaa's closeness to AIADMK supremo has been openly acknowledged by Jayalalithaa herself. However in August 1996, soon after the party's disastrous showing in the assembly election that year, Jayalalithaa was forced to distance herself from her friend. Jayalalithaa had then issued a statement saying that thousands of partymen had expressed the view that the AIADMK suffered defeat in the 1996 assembly polls mostly because of "the activities" of her friend's family. But about a year later, Sasikalaa was back in Poes Garden.