How is Sasikala related to Jayalalitha? The enigmatic bond of two powerful women


Sasikala and Jayalalitha were two of the most influential and controversial figures in Tamil Nadu politics. They shared a close and complex relationship for nearly three decades, until Jayalalitha’s death in 2016. How did they meet, and what was the nature of their bond? How did they rise to power, and what were the challenges they faced? How did they fall apart, and what was their legacy? This article will explore these questions and more, based on the available sources and information.

The beginning of a friendship

Sasikala, whose full name is Vivekanandan Krishnaveni Sasikala, was born in 1957 in Mannargudi, a town in the Tiruvarur district of Tamil Nadu. She came from a humble background, and had a passion for movies and film stars. She married Natarajan, a public relations officer in the Tamil Nadu government, in 1973. However, he lost his job during the Emergency in 1976, and the couple faced financial difficulties. Sasikala ran a video cassette rental shop, and also had a camera.

Jayalalitha, whose full name is Jayaram Jayalalitha, was born in 1948 in Melukote, a town in the Mandya district of Karnataka. She came from a well-to-do family, and had a successful career as an actress in Tamil cinema. She was also the protégé and lover of MG Ramachandran (MGR), the founder of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) party and the chief minister of Tamil Nadu from 1977 to 1987.

Sasikala met Jayalalitha in 1982, through VS Chandralekha, an IAS officer and district collector of Cuddalore, who was a friend of Natarajan. Sasikala approached Jayalalitha with a proposal to shoot a propaganda video for her. They met more than once, and developed a rapport. Sasikala impressed Jayalalitha with her loyalty, devotion, and efficiency. She also offered her emotional support and companionship.

The rise to power

In 1987, MGR died after a prolonged illness. His death triggered a power struggle within the AIADMK party. Jayalalitha, who was the propaganda secretary of the party, faced opposition from some senior leaders who supported MGR’s widow Janaki as his successor. Janaki became the chief minister of Tamil Nadu for a brief period of 24 days, but was ousted by a no-confidence motion.

Jayalalitha emerged as the sole leader of the AIADMK after winning the support of the majority of the party cadres and MLAs. She also won the sympathy of the public by portraying herself as a victim of injustice and humiliation. Sasikala played a crucial role in protecting Jayalalitha from her enemies and rivals. She summoned her relatives and associates from Mannargudi to form a security ring around Jayalalitha. She also managed Jayalalitha’s household affairs and personal finances.

In 1989, Jayalalitha became the leader of the opposition in the Tamil Nadu assembly. She faced physical and verbal abuse from the ruling DMK party members, led by M Karunanidhi. In one infamous incident, she was assaulted and her saree was pulled by some DMK MLAs in the assembly premises. Sasikala stood by her side and consoled her.

In 1991, Jayalalitha led the AIADMK to a landslide victory in the assembly elections, in alliance with the Congress party. She became the chief minister of Tamil Nadu for the first time. She thanked Sasikala for her support and assistance. She also appointed some of Sasikala’s relatives and friends to key positions in the government and the party.

The peak of their bond

Jayalalitha and Sasikala shared an enigmatic relationship for nearly 30 years. They lived together in Jayalalitha’s Poes Garden residence in Chennai. They wore matching sarees and jewellery. They attended public functions and religious ceremonies together. They travelled abroad together. They exchanged gifts and letters. They called each other ‘akka’ (elder sister) and ‘thangai’ (younger sister).

According to Firstpost, Sasikala was Jayalalitha’s sounding board, soul mate, sister, political advisor, confidante, housekeeper, and friend all rolled into one. She was also Jayalalitha’s shadow, always following her footsteps and gestures. She was also Jayalalitha’s shield, guarding her from any harm or threat. She was also Jayalalitha’s power, controlling the access and influence of anyone who wanted to reach her.

Jayalalitha trusted Sasikala implicitly and gave her complete authority over her personal and political affairs. She also treated Sasikala’s family as her own. She adopted Sasikala’s nephew VN Sudhakaran as her foster son, and arranged a lavish wedding for him in 1995. She also named Sasikala’s nephew TTV Dhinakaran as her party’s treasurer, and gave him a Rajya Sabha seat.

The cracks in their relationship

However, not everything was smooth and rosy between Jayalalitha and Sasikala. There were several instances when their relationship was strained or tested by various factors. Some of them were:

  • The corruption cases: Jayalalitha and Sasikala faced several allegations of corruption, disproportionate assets, and abuse of power during their first term in office from 1991 to 1996. They were accused of amassing huge wealth and properties through illegal means. They were also blamed for the lavish wedding of Sudhakaran, which cost an estimated Rs 10 crore and involved 150,000 guests. They were also involved in the infamous TANSI land deal case, where they allegedly bought government-owned land at a throwaway price. They were arrested and jailed briefly in 1996, after they lost the assembly elections to the DMK.
  • The media expose: In 1996, a Tamil magazine called Nakkheeran published a series of articles exposing the nexus between Sasikala and some criminals and anti-social elements. The articles claimed that Sasikala had links with sandalwood smuggler Veerappan, who had kidnapped Kannada actor Rajkumar in 2000. The articles also claimed that Sasikala had hired contract killers to eliminate Jayalalitha’s rivals and critics. The articles also revealed the details of Sasikala’s family background and wealth.
  • The revolt of the party men: Many AIADMK leaders and workers were unhappy with Sasikala’s dominance and interference in the party affairs. They felt that she was exploiting Jayalalitha’s trust and loyalty for her own benefit. They also resented the presence and influence of Sasikala’s relatives and associates in the party and the government. They demanded that Jayalalitha should distance herself from Sasikala and her family.

The break-up and reconciliation

In 2011, Jayalalitha made a dramatic announcement that she had expelled Sasikala and her entire family from her residence and the party. She said that she had come to know that they were plotting against her and trying to usurp her position. She also said that she had been misled by them for a long time, and that she had realised her mistake.

Sasikala was shocked and hurt by Jayalalitha’s decision. She wrote a letter to Jayalalitha, apologising for any wrongdoing and expressing her unconditional love and loyalty. She also disowned her relatives and friends, and said that she had no interest in politics or power. She said that she only wanted to be with Jayalalitha as her sister.

Jayalalitha was moved by Sasikala’s letter, and decided to forgive her and take her back. She announced that she had reinstated Sasikala as her friend and companion, after she had proved her loyalty by severing ties with her family. She also said that she had no grudge against anyone, and that she was happy to have Sasikala by her side.

The final years

Jayalalitha and Sasikala resumed their relationship as before, after their brief separation in 2011. They continued to live together in Poes Garden, and attend public events together. They also faced several legal battles together, including the disproportionate assets case, which reached the Supreme Court.

In 2014, Jayalalitha was convicted by a special court in Bangalore in the disproportionate assets case, along with Sasikala and two others. She was sentenced to four years of imprisonment, and disqualified from holding public office. She was lodged in the Parappana Agrahara jail in Bangalore, while Sasikala stayed with her as a co-prisoner.

In 2015, Jayalalitha was acquitted by the Karnataka High Court in the disproportionate assets case, after an appeal. She was released from jail, along with Sasikala and others. She returned to Chennai amid a grand welcome by her supporters. She also returned to power as the chief minister of Tamil Nadu, after winning a by-election from RK Nagar constituency.

In 2016, Jayalalitha fell ill and was admitted to Apollo Hospital in Chennai on 22 September. She suffered from various complications, including infection, respiratory distress, cardiac arrest, and multiple organ

Doms Desk

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