CHENNAI: Even before Chief Minister O Panneerselvam came out with a public statement backing Sasikala, a host of leaders, including ministers, supported her as the party’s next general secretary, on Saturday.
Second rung leaders, including cabinet ministers, queued up at Poes Garden from the morning. Nearly 20 ministers, one after another, came on Jaya TV to express their allegiance to Sasikala whom they addressed as ‘Chinnamma’.
Seniors like Lok Sabha Deputy Speaker M Thambidurai, who was once rumoured to be part of the other dominant faction in the party, were among those who appeared on television to praise Sasikala, recalling how she was part of Jayalalithaa’s political activities.
“Ahead of the Cabinet meeting, all ministers went to Poes Garden to pay homage to Jayalalithaa. When Sasikala madam came out, all ministers, including Chief Minister O Panneerselvam, appealed to her to assume charge as the general secretary. She stood there teary- eyed, but did not reply. We hope she would accept our appeal very soon,” Health Minister C Vijaya Baskar told Express.
Sasikala was the only hope of the party at this situation and all cadre had decided to urge her to lead the party, said AIADMK presidium chairman Madhusudhanan, a view echoed by others, including former ministers B Valarmathi, Gokula Indira and KA Sengottaiyan.
The leaders recalled the decades that Sasikala spent as the closest aide of Jayalalithaa and said the former was part of all discussions and debates that the former Chief Minister initiated on various political and other matters. Former Chennai Mayor ‘Saidai’ S Duraisamy said, “At this hour, who will get what position is immaterial. Our common goal should be to continue the fight against political rival (DMK). The present situation should not become conducive for opponents. To protect the AIADMK from splitting, Sasikala should don the mantle. No one else in the party knew the line of thinking of Jayalalithaa other than her.”
Meanwhile, there were sporadic protests against the turn of events with a group of women cadre raising slogans against Sasikala on the road leading to the Poes Garden. There were similar reports of discontent among the lower level cadre and party sympathisers.