The political game in Tamil Nadu has just become a lot more intense with VK Sasikala, Jayalalithaa's aide, all set to become the next CM of the state. O Panneerselvam, who had been holding the post since Jayalalithaa's death in December 2016, tendered his resignation on Sunday, clearing the way for Sasikala's complete takeover.
On Saturday, three top bureaucrats who had been close to Jayalalithaa and had been guiding O Panneerselvam during his brief stint, were shunted out with instructions reportedly coming from Poes Garden where Sasikala lives.
None of these developments should come as a surprise to anyone who has been watching Sasikala's moves in the last two months.
From a physical makeover to consolidating her position within the party by becoming the General Secretary, she has been moving towards reimagining herself in Jayalalithaa's position.
In December, all eyes were on Sasikala, the newly appointed AIADMK General Secretary, as she stepped into the party headquarters in Chennai. She'd lived under Jayalalithaa's shadow for over 30 years but as Sasikala formally took over Jayalalithaa’s mantle, there appeared to be a distinct change in her appearance, transforming from one who worked behind the scenes to a stateswoman herself.
As Jayalalithaa’s political heir, she not only had to invoke her best friend’s name in her maiden public speech, but it was important that Sasikala looked the part of a worthy successor as well.
The political makeover appeared to draw inspiration from Jayalalithaa’s sense of style. Dressed in the party colours, much like her predecessor often did, Sasikala chose to wear a demure olive green saree with a mauve border, befitting the sombre albeit historic occasion. While Jayalalithaa often draped her saree over her shoulders, Sasikala chose to wear a high-necked formal blouse over a regular cut.
The new party chief also chose to emulate Jayalalithaa’s hairstyle, wearing a bun with a black hairnet instead of the plait that she normally prefers.
In the past, Sasikala and Jayalalithaa would often be seen wearing the same colours for public appearances, opting for simple sarees, mostly in the hues of green, blue, purple and maroon. It was, in fact, the public anger following her foster son Sudhakaran’s over-the-top wedding had led to image makeover – from queen Jayalalithaa to Amma.
Both Jayalalithaa and her aide Sasikala swapped their finest silk sarees for muted, simple ones and shed their gold and diamonds for modest jewellery.
But it’s not just Jayalalithaa and heir Sasikala, who went in for image makeovers. Political adversary, DMK’s MK Stalin also chose to have a makeover ahead of the 2016 Assembly Elections. His “Namakku Naame” campaign was seen as an effort to appeal to the youth in Tamil Nadu.
While Stalin swapping his veshti for a pair of trousers, and his chappals for sneakers, the DMK Treasurer not only undertook an extensive state-wide campaign but also took to social media to engage with youngsters.
After formally assuming charge as General Secretary of the AIADMK, 'Chinnamma' as Sasikala is popularly known, made her way to the first floor of the party headquarters and greeted the cadres with folded hands, much like Jayalalithaa had in the past.
Following her 20-minute speech, Sasikala returned to Jayalalithaa’s Poes Garden residence, where she resides, in a Toyota Landcruiser. Unlike the last 30 odd years, Sasikala, did not sit in the shadows behind, but took her place in front, where she now belonged.