Who is Chinnamma? The real story behind Jayalithaa's aide Sasikala
The tumultuous relationship between Jayalalithaa and Sasikala has been rewarding for both in their personal and public lives. In fact, it has attracted more attention than Jaya�s equally stormy relations with MGR and Karunanidhi.
As expected, former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa’s close confidante Sasikala Natarajan, clad in a black sari followed Jayalalithaa on her last journey too, as the entire state mourned the death of their beloved "Amma". Eclipsing senior ministers of Amma’s AIADMK and her relatives, Sasikala dominated the last rites also, as she had done previously during her days in office.
The tumultuous relationship between Jayalalithaa and Sasikala, who is called Chinnamma by AIADMK workers, has been rewarding for both in their personal and public lives. In fact, it has attracted more attention than Jaya’s equally stormy relations with MGR and Karunanidhi.
Born in 1957 in an agricultural family at Mannargudi, Sasikala, a housewife, first met Jayalalithaa in the 1980s when Jaya had forayed into Tamil politics in 1982. The duo’s meeting was arranged by another Amma aide VS Chandralekha, IAS, who was then the Cuddalore collector; she deputed Sasikala’s husband as her PRO.
Sasikala played much of the behind-the-scene games in Amma’s political career later, and took charge of her posh Rs 90 crore Poes Garden home.
Sasikala emerged the kingmaker in Tamil Nadu politics when Jayalalithaa became chief minister of Tamil Nadu in 1991. For her loyal service, Amma generously rewarded Sasikala by adopting her nephew Sudhakaran and conducted his marriage to Tamil Nadu’s all-time matinee idol Sivaji Ganesan’s granddaughter in a multi-crore wedding in 1995. Amma even went to the extent of declaring Sasikala as "udanpiravaa sagodhari (sister, not related by blood)."
It is said that Sasikala and her relatives grabbed government land across Chennai and Tamil Nadu and indulged in massive corruption, which distanced the party from people and gave enough fodder to the opposition to take down the government. Widespread resentment grew among the AIADMK cadre and people alike as Sasikala and her family began to dictate terms to ministers and IAS officers and Tamil press branded them "Mannargudi mafia".
The mutiny within the party cost Jayalalithaa very dearly as she lost the 1996 Tamil Nadu Assembly elections to DMK. Sensing the public mood, Amma distanced herself from Sasikala briefly, when DMK dug up all corruption cases involving Amma, leading to her final acquittal by Supreme Court in 2003.
After serving a short prison sentence, Jayalithaa threw out Sasikala, Natarajan and 12 of their kin from AIADMK primary membership. However, by this time, Jayalalithaa's political fortunes also improved as she rode to power as her populist schemes benefited her to return to power in 2011 and she became a kingmaker and decision maker in national politics also.
An emotional wave hit Tamil Nadu when Jayalithaa again became CM after the Karnataka High Court acquitted her in all corruption cases.
Now, the big question in Tamil Nadu’s politics is what will be the political future of Sasikala after the demise of her beloved friend and patron Jayalalithaa. Or is it Chinnamma Rising now?