Two days after the AIADMK General Council passed a resolution in favour of VK Sasikala taking the reins of the party as its General Secretary, the friend and closest aide of former CM Jayalalithaa arrived at the party HQ to give her first ever public speech.
As Sasikala made her way to the party HQ in a convoy of SUVs, cadres and government workers gathered along the route in support, and cheered her on. At least 2,000 policemen and officers were deputed to beef up security at the venue. There was heavy security all along Avvai Shanmugam Road, where the party HQ is housed.
Sasikala arrived at the party headquarters at 12.10pm. The AIADMK‚Äôs ministers and party leaders, including Chief Minister O Panneerselvam were already gathered there to welcome her. Thousands of party workers, government union workers and staff had also assembled at the venue.
Arriving at the party HQ, Sasikala first garlanded the statue of MGR, as the compound resonated with slogans of, ‚ÄúAmmavin vaarisu Chinnamma‚ÄĚ (Amma‚Äôs Heir Chinnamma) and ‚ÄúEngalin vazhigatti Chinamma‚ÄĚ (Our guide Chinnamma).
Following this, Sasikala entered the party office to hold discussions with senior functionaries. She also signed official party books, formallly marking her taking charge.
As Sasikala took charge as the General Secretary and gave a speech, it was beamed live on party mouthpiece Jaya TV (Plus) and on giant screens in and around the party office. At least one of the many posters of Jayalalithaa at the entrance of the party office had been replaced with a poster of Jayalalithaa and Sasikala together.
Invoking Jayalalithaa, Sasikala began her nearly 15-minute-long speech by saying that it was Amma's dream that the AIADMK should rule for the next 100 years. "At a time when Amma is not here with us, we should work with the hope that for the next 100 years AIADMK should lead TN," she said.
As she spoke of her shared past with Jayalalithaa, saying that she had been to thousands of party meetings with Amma in the 33 years she was with her, she began to well up. Saying that Jayalalithaa's death came like a bolt of lightning, she said that she is now under the duty and necessity to speak alone.
"For Amma, the party was life. For me, Amma was life," she said, adding that she never imagined such a thing could happen. "For 75 days, I was with the strong belief that she would survive. There were doctors from AIIMs and London. We were hoping to take her back to Poes Garden. But god took away our dear Amma," she said.
Crying as she spoke, she said, "There is a situation now that I have to stand on this stage and address you. This is something I had never envisaged, something I never imagined happened."
"I cannot express through words how it is to be without her after 33 years. I have spent my life looking after Amma. I am 62 years old now. For the last 33 years, since I was 29, I was with her only," she said.
"For the rest of my life, I will live for my party and the crores of people. Amma's dream for TN will continue. Aiadmk will continue to work for people," she promised.
"She struggled a lot against obstacles and conspiracies, but we were with her. Today, we are suffering without her. In those days, there was no other leader apart from Indira Gandhi in the world of politics dominated by men. She led the way for woman politicians. And I will follow her as the General Secretary of the party," she asserted.
"Amma's party is the people's party. This government is the people's government," she said.
"We can see fruits, buds, flowers, leaves, branches... but we can't see the roots. Our party workers are the roots. Their hard work is the pulse of the party," she said.
"Puratchi Thalaivar's 100th birth anniversary begins on January 17. It was Amma's wish that it should be celebrated in such a way that the entire nation should praise it. Fulfilling her wish, the party will celebrate the entire year as his 100th birth year," she said, adding that she would insist that the center releases a special stamp and coin in memory of MGR.
"I wish to say one more thing with full conviction. We should lead a pure public life such that even those who criticise us today should come forward to follow us tomorrow," she said.
"Every day, I hear Amma's Atma telling me, 'I have given you the responsibility of 1.5 crore children'. Let's all resolve to fulfill Puratchi Thalaivi Amma's high ideals and dreams," she said.