Not a word of Sasikala in hustings

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Not a word is said about Ms Sasikala in any of the speeches made by senior AIADMK leaders and ministers.

Chennai: She was catapulted to the post of AIADMK general secretary, was honoured with titles like “Chinamma” and “Ilaya Puratchi Thalaivi” and not even a day goes without ministers and senior leaders mentioning her name at the drop of a hat.

But V K Sasikala is conspicuous by her absence in posters and campaign material of the newly christened AIADMK (Amma) for the R K Nagar by-poll. Her nephew T T V Dinakaran, who is the candidate, and the party, seems to have abandoned her for the by-election, as result of negative public perception against her after J Jayalalithaa’s death.

Even cadres who join Mr Dhinakaran’s high-voltage campaign in the scorching sun display placards with images of only late M G Ramachandran and J Jayalalithaa but not Sasikala. Not a word is said about Ms Sasikala in any of the speeches made by senior AIADMK leaders and ministers.

From the hoardings to posters to pamphlets to advertisements on the social media – Ms Sasikala’s image has been completely blacked out in and around R K Nagar constituency. But, interestingly posters seeking votes for Mr Dhinakaran that adorn the walls outside the constituency prominently feature her.

The rebel OPS faction was quick to sense a political opportunity when it said the “Sasikala-less campaign” by the AIADMK (Amma) was an open admission that their jailed party chief was indeed a political liability. “They are obviously scared and they know there is tremendous public anger against Sasikala and her family. And that is why Dhinakaran is scared of using her image in posters and banners,” said Mr E. Madhusudhanan, the OPS candidate.

Political analyst Ramu Manivannan terms it a “survival and hypocritical strategy” and predicts that Ms Sasikala’s image would return as “presiding deity” of the AIADMK once the polls are over.

“This is a pure hypocritical strategy. They want to survive and win this election and now they avoid her picture. They very well know they can’t use the picture of a person who is despised by the people. Once the elections are over, they would start worshipping her again,” Mr Manivannan, Head of Department of Politics and Public Administration, University of Madras, told Deccan Chronicle.

The party seems to take have taken the conscious decision of not using Ms Sasikala’s image in their campaign material and an indication that the orders might have come from the top came on Monday when the party’s manifesto for the constituency was released. The manifesto, which was released in the form of a pamphlet, did not have the picture of Ms Sasikala while it featured images of MGR, Jayalalithaa and Dravidian stalwart C N Annadurai.

Political commentator Gnani Sankaran said avoiding Chinnamma seems to be a “conscious decision” and the AIADMK might have decided to avoid using her images only to “simplify things.”

The AIADMK, after the death of Jayalalithaa, has been fighting a battle of perception with the general public, especially the younger lot, taking to the social media to publicly air their anger against Ms Sasikala and her family in the form of memes and videos.

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