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Jayalalithaa’s birth anniversary may turn into display of loyalties

LiveMint logoLiveMint 23-02-2017 Dharani Thangavelu

Chennai: J. Jayalalithaa is no more, her party is in a shambles and weeks of political instability have only just ended in her state of Tamil Nadu. Yet, when it comes to celebrating her birth anniversary on Friday, there is no let-up in zeal and extravagance.

Huge posters, life-size cutouts, new welfare projects, elaborate functions and display of loyalty by the cadres of All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) have always marked 24 February, the birthday of the late Tamil Nadu chief minister.

This year too, festivities have already begun. With one difference: following Jayalalithaa’s death on 5 December, the celebrations on Friday will be marked by a tussle between the two factions that have emerged in recent weeks.

ALSO READ: Tamil Nadu CM Palaniswami sticks to Amma brand of politics on Day 1

The duel between the two camps—one led by Jayalalithaa’s confidante, AIADMK general secretary V. K. Sasikala and the other by the late leader’s trusted lieutenant, ousted chief minister O. Panneerselvam—will be evident as they try to steal the show and project themselves as the “real loyalists”.

Both the camps have requested AIADMK members to come forward to celebrate the birth anniversary of their beloved “Amma”. While it is known that the ministers and most of the high command would be part of the celebrations in the Sasikala camp, the Panneerselvam camp will try and display its strength through its overwhelming cadre and public support.

The Sasikala bloc on Tuesday issued a statement—citing “approval from the general secretary”—urging members to hold feasts, distribute welfare measures to the poor and pay homage by displaying portraits of Jayalalithaa. AIADMK presidium chairman and school education minister K.A. Sengottaiyan will lead the 69th birthday celebrations, the party said in a statement.

Sasikala is currently in the Parappana Agrahara jail in Karnataka serving time in a disproportionate assets case, in which Jayalalithaa is the primary convict.

Meanwhile, former chief minister Panneerselvam whose rebellion against Sasikala and her family garnered public support, will begin a “Justice Seeking” campaign across Tamil Nadu from Friday.

ALSO READ: Sasikala lodged in Bengaluru jail, Stalin sees early elections in Tamil Nadu

Last week, senior AIADMK leader E. Madhusudhanan from the Panneerselvam faction filed a petition with the Election Commission of India (ECI) saying Sasikala should not be allowed to continue as AIADMK general secretary, as her appointment is against the constitution of the party and the position can be filled only through a vote of all 15 million registered members. The ECI has sought Sasikala’s reply by 28 February.

If the ECI is unsatisfied with her response, the AIADMK will have to hold fresh elections for the general secretary’s post, said the observers.

The ECI might even freeze the party’s symbol of two leaves, said Sampath Kumar, a professor at the Asian College of Journalism and an expert in Tamil Nadu and Sri Lankan politics.

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