February 23, 2020
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'Sasikala Was All In All'

Alagu Thirunavukkarasu was minister for local administration in Jayalalitha's cabinet and was part of the inner coterie. He was expelled from the ministry when, as he puts it, he ran out of favour with Sasikala. He is now general secretary of the MG

'Sasikala Was All In All'

What say did Sasikala have in the government?

She was all in all. The only person who had access to the chief minister. I've seen it first hand. She could influence decisions. People went to her to get files moving. She was an extra-constitutional authority and was treated like a VVIP. Why, once she was even seated in the deputy speaker's chair in the assembly. She was not even an MLA.

Did she have the same kind of influence in the party?

Yes. Both workers and leaders were afraid of her. All were out to please her, her friends and relatives. They believed one could grow only with her blessings.

Didn't anyone in the party complain about her to the chief minister?

Jayalalitha could not tolerate dissent. And this became pronounced after she became CM. Those who complained were beaten up or sidelined. Ministers who dared to raise the issue of Sasikala or corruption in the government were simply thrown out.

Why were you dismissed? Weren't you once part of the coterie?

I was very close to Jayalalitha at one time. But Sasikala didn't like me. She saw me as a threat, so I was asked to go. Sasikala felt I was getting too powerful.

When did you first feel things were going wrong?

After the first year of AIADMK rule was celebrated in Madurai, when Sasikala and her group started trying to corner contracts. At one stage, even party-men believed no file could move without Sasikala's okay.

Who was in her 'group'?

Her husband, though everyone pretends he's not. Then, relatives of Sasikala. They could call up ministers, bureaucrats and everyone would oblige them.

Do you see any future for the AIADMK?

The party will have a future only if Jayalalitha quits.

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