In the past few weeks, many leaders have openly requested Sasikala to take over as Chief Minister.

Politics of TN bureaucracy Is Sasikala takeover imminent after top babus forced exit
news Politics Saturday, February 04, 2017 - 10:30

Just as the news broke that key senior bureaucrats of the erstwhile Jayalalithaa regime, who had remained at the helm even after O Panneerselvam took over, were asked to leave by the CM, rumours of Sasikala’s ‘imminent’ takeover of the state government started doing the rounds.

Late on Friday night, reports emerged that retired bureaucrats and special advisers to the TN CM, Sheela Balakrishnan, KN Venkataramanan and Shanta Sheela Nair were asked to tender their resignation. A source close to the CMO told The News Minute that the sudden move, which surprised TN bureaucrats (some pleasantly so), could be traced back to Poes Garden. AIADMK General Secretary Sasikala is said to have set this off.

Political circles in Chennai are abuzz with speculation that Sasikala making such ‘decisive moves’ could only mean that she is set to take over as Chief Minister. The three officers asked to leave were close to J Jayalalithaa and had quickly moved into the OPS camp, operating without any interference from the Mannargudi family.

But why is it imperative to have shunted out these bureaucrats? The answer perhaps lies in an old interview by M Natarajan to NDTV.

When asked what kind of advice he used to give Jayalalithaa during her early days in the government after the death of MGR, he had said, “I set one theory, if not directly to her, through my wife and my family. I drew a triangle - the chief secretary, the private secretary and the home secretary. These three are vital. These three had to be different people who should not be allowed to come together. If they did, they will rule, but if you keep them under control, you will rule.”

The three bureaucrats asked to resign now aren’t in those specific roles, but they did hold considerable influence and power over the government. And it is in this understanding of the Sasikala family, that only pliable key bureaucrats can help a leader remain in power and ‘rule’, that the reasons for the sudden move could lie. The suspicion that Sasikala’s takeover of the government could be next rises from this ‘clean up’ at Fort St. George.

“This is likely to be a legislature meet. We are also hearing that there could be a change, but nothing is confirmed,” an AIADMK leader told TNM.

In the past few weeks, many leaders have openly requested Sasikala to take over as Chief Minister.

In the first week of January,  Lok Sabha Deputy Speaker and AIADMK Propaganda Secretary M Thambidurai said, “Respected Chinnamma has the intelligence, capacity and love for the people, love for the party workers and care for the party cadres, as Puratchi Thalaivi Hon'ble Amma had; and it is my strong belief that it is very important that Respected Chinnamma has to shoulder the responsibility of the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, to take forward the party and to carry on the governance of Tamil Nadu, for the welfare of the people of Tamil Nadu.”

Interestingly, on Friday, Sasikala also appointed several key leaders of the AIADMK to senior positions in the party, in what was seen as an attempt by her to assuage any criticism within the party and consolidate her position.

The AIADMK has followed the tradition of having its General Secretary lead the government. Both MG Ramachandran and J Jayalalithaa had held the post of party General Secretary and Chief Minister at the same time. This is one reason that has been cited by many AIADMK leaders while declaring their support for Sasikala as next Chief Minister.

Sasikala’s husband Natarajan too has made much noise in the last few weeks, asserting the family’s bond with Jayalalithaa.

However, even if there was a serious move to elect Sasikala as Legislature party leader, there are several thorns in the way.

O Panneerselvam and the BJP are unlikely to be happy about the move. There is also the verdict in the Disproportionate Assets case that continues to haunt Sasikala.

“More than our displeasure, the AIADMK should be worried about how much people would despise this move,” a senior central cabinet minister had told TNM in the sidelines of a meeting two weeks ago.

AIADMK MLAs are slated to meet in Chennai on February 5, but many say that this is to discuss the upcoming local body polls which have remained in limbo for a while. But in a few days, we will know for sure if the wave of change in the power corridors of Chennai was just a step towards a more permanent metamorphosis of the government. 

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