V.K. Sasikala takes over as AIADMK chief with a 'sense of duty'

Our Bureau Chennai | Updated on January 16, 2018 Published on December 31, 2016

V.K. Sasikala, General Secretary, AIADMK, greets party cadre at the party office in Chennai on Saturday. -- Bijoy Ghosh

V.K. Sasikala formally took over as the General Secretary of the ruling AIADMK today assuring supporters that she would follow closely in the footsteps of Late J Jayalalithaa, former general secretary and chief minister of Tamil Nadu.

In her first official address after she was selected to lead the party by its general council on Thursday, she started out by paying respects to the founder of the Dravidian movement `Periyar’ EV Ramasamy, the founder of the DMK, CN Annadurai, the founder of the AIADMK, MG Ramachandran, and her predecessor, Jayalalithaa.

Her 25-minute speech dwelt a lot on her more than 30-year association with `Amma’, as all AIADMK supporters refer to Jayalalithaa – the primary reason, the party leaders had cited for unanimously selecting Sasikala to take control as the third general secretary after MGR and Jayalalithaa.

“I am 62 years old. I have been with Amma since I was 29, when she started her political career. My life was spent in looking after her needs,” she said.

In the well-rehearsed speech, delivered clearly, with frequent pauses as she broke down, she said she has now been forced onto centre stage through a “sense of duty” and “compulsion” by AIADMK party members. The political stage had lost a leader in Jayalalithaa, “I lost everything,” Sasikala said. This was not a situation that she had ever “dreamed or imagined,” she said.

The death of Jayalalithaa had come as a “thunderbolt” after she had been under treatment for 75 days in hospital, when everybody was hoping she had recovered fully and would soon go home.

Sasikala said she was committed to devoting the rest of her life to the cause of the AIADMK movement and the wellbeing of its 1.5 crore supporters.

“Amma embodied the qualities of Periyar, Anna and MGR, the Dravidian party leaders. Nobody can match or fill her place,” but her followers have learnt the lessons she taught. Nobody will overshadow these leaders, who were beyond caste and community considerations. The AIADMK will continue with the same energy and enthusiasm, she said.

In a clear message to her critics, she said the party’s “military discipline” will be maintained and the same “yardstick” used for people to progress in the party will remain. Amma only demanded unswerving loyalty and faith, which was the force behind the AIADMK movement. “This should continue,” Sasikala said.

The opposition thought that the party would be weakened by the loss of the leader. But, reciting lines from a popular MGR song, she said if the supporters stay united "tomorrow will be ours,” she said.

With the centenary year of AIADMK founder MGR starting in January 2017, the party will organise a year-long celebration and urge the Centre to release commemorative stamps and coins in his name, she said.

Sasikala arrived at the AIADMK headquarters shortly after 12.00 pm, garlanded the statue of MGR, paid her respects to a photo of Jayalalithaa placed at the entrance and went in. She appeared for a few seconds at the first floor balcony to greet the gathered supporters before going in to address ministers, MLAs and senior leaders. She returned to the balcony after the speech, greeted the gathering again before leaving.

Published on December 31, 2016
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