She was a running a video – tape shop and used to record weddings attended by Jayalalitha. Though she belonged to an influential Kallar community, her family had a humble background with agriculture as a source of income. However, she broke into the inner circles of Ms. J Jayalalitha during 1970s. Though there ups and down between Jayalalitha and Sasikala in course of time, she remained close to Selvi Jayalalitha almost throughout the relationship.
It was Mr. Natarajan, the estranged husband of Ms. Sasikala who brought the duo in touch with each other. He was a government Public Relations Officer. It is said that he made them meet each other through IAS officer V S Chandralekha. Sasikala played it well to get into powerful position through Jayalalitha and not only her family but also the Kallar community prospered through her.
Sasikala didn’t remain just as a friend and caretaker of Ms. Jayalalitha. She started influencing the political decisions of Jayalalitha too. Her hold in the AIADMK party also grew significantly that she could also change the candidate named by Late Jayalalitha for contesting in elections. That means probably she also had a hold on selecting persons for ministerial positions in Jayalalitha cabinet.
The whole Mannargudi, the native place of Sasikala, is now controlled by extended family members of Sasikala. Many local people call it ‘Mannargudi Mafia’. They allegedly run the state with an iron-grip but behind the shield of secrecy, and not many risk talking about them on-record.
Ms. Sasikala’s elder brother Dr V Dhivaharan, who was jobless and whose address was known as ‘care of platform’, as said by one of the long time resident of Mannargudi and business, is now known as ‘Boss’ in Mannargudi. He is one of the most influential individuals in the Cauvery-delta region, which includes Thanjavur and its surrounding districts.
He owns and runs the all-girls Sengamla Thayaar Educational Trust Women’s College. He has accumulated large number of properties including a massive property opposite the STET College at Sundarakottai near Mannargudi town. He is said to be a power centre in the politics, economy and social fabric of the Delta region. That is how the things have transformed from a jobless to a job provider and from ‘care of platform’ to the ‘boss’.
Even the senior IAS, IPS officers are not able to withstand the overpowering Mannargudi Mafia and many a times, they have to bend for their demands. Sasikala’s family has its men placed at strategic positions, including all cabinet ministers’ offices. Further, they have their vigilance among the bureaucrats and the state cadre too.
Some people do appreciate Sasikala’s political maturity and strategy. Whatever might have been her background, she has reached the key position in Tamil Nadu politics. After the demise of her mistress, Ms. Jayalalitha, the further role of Sasikala in Tamil Nadu politics is not very clear and it is yet to be seen how she will create a space for herself and how the AIADMK will accommodate her.
– Akshara Damle
You can reach to author on Twitter @aksharadamle