Overnight AIADMK interim General Secretary VK Sasikala shed her cloak of defensiveness, displaying a combative aggression that was once characteristic of her friend and late Chief Minister Jayalalithaa.
Thrown on the back foot since O Panneerselvam rebelled against her leadership last Tuesday, Sasikala has changed tack and tone since Saturday. The first signs of Sasikala's aggression came in a letter that was sent to Governor Ch. Vidyasagar Rao urging him to grant her an appointment.
But her veiled threat- "We will be patient only up to a point, after that we will do what we have to do" - belied fear and panic.
Was it the "draft letter" that was allegedly prepared by the Governor to the Home Minister that pushed Sasikala to turn combative? Perhaps. With the verdict in the Disproportionate Assets case fast approaching, Sasikala's camp appears to have pushed the panic button.
Speeding away to Golden Bay Resorts in Koovathur, Sasikala for the first time met with over 100 MLAs who have been "locked away" since Wednesday night. Her face-to-face meeting with her legislators came hours after Education Minister Mafoi Pandiarajan shifted loyalties to OPS.
But perhaps the biggest sign that the VKS camp was buckling under pressure was when they realised they needed the media.
A source close to Sasikala revealed to TNM, "The English media is against us. They are not highlighting the Governor's role and his unconstitutional stand."
The rules of engagement needed to change, especially since the OPS faction was briefing the press every few hours. Sasikala, who has been comfortable keeping the media at a distance, realised that her version of the story needed telling. She had to fight fire with fire.
For every OPS soundbyte, there is now a counter from Sasikala, no less. On Sunday, she addressed her first ever press conference at the beach resort in Koovathur.
And just as Jayalalithaa intimidated many a journalist who asked difficult questions, Sasikala went on live TV to ask a reporter which publication he worked for. His query, "How long would MLAs continue to be at the resort" appeared to irritate her. Taking a leaf out from her friend's book, "Chinamma" chose to question the reporter's credentials instead.
While the last two days have seen multiple press interactions by Sasikala, her speech to her MLAs and AIADMK members have displayed a fierce belligerence that was never made public before. Calling herself a little lion, Sasikala told her legislators on Sunday, "Because I was always with the lion, everyone who is with a lion, is a lion." And on Monday, she reminded her party functionaries of her determination to be at the top, "For 33 years, two of us women managed to stay strong. We're not afraid of anything. How many ever men come from the opposition party, I will be the woman who faces them all."
But no matter how combative and belligerent Sasikala appears on TV, her refusal to take on the Governor and the BJP not only sets her apart from her mentor but marks her out as a political novice