Clad in a black saree, a sombre-looking Sasikala Natarajan, who remained a wall of support for Jayalalithaa through thick and thin, remained beside the casket of the departed leader as people filed past it paying their homage.
Intermittently standing up and touching Jayalalithaa’s face, which was kept in state at Rajaji Hall, Sasikala looked lost even as she acknowledged the condolences of visitors.
Jayalalithaa’s demise is seen as a personal loss for the 59-year-old Sasikala who was probably one of the few occupants of the Chief Minister’s Veda Nilayam residence at Poes Garden beside assistants and officials.
The former Tamil Nadu chief minister’s closest companion during the last 20 years of her life was by her side even after death. Having stood by Jayalalithaa through thick and thin, Sasikala, clad in a black saree, continued to stand her ground on Tuesday.
She had come in contact with Jayalalithaa following the Emergency. As Jayalalithaa rose up the AIADMK ranks, Sasikala became a regular by her side. In late 2011, however, she was expelled from the AIADMK, but reinstated three months later, in March 2012.
Described by many as ‘Amma’s’ conscience keeper, the question now is whether Sasikala will emerge as a central figure for the rudderless party workers to rally around? There is also speculation over whether she will be able to hold the party and guide it like Jayalalithaa?
The jury is still out on what role she will play. Some see her as a positive force that will rise in rank and popularity just as Jayalalithaa did after the demise of MGR in 1987.
“The party is in her hands for some time now. Ever since she came back to the party in 2012, she has grown in power and it is even said that all decisions, administrative and political, have her stamp on it,” a political analyst pointed out.
“Wait and watch. For the moment, Sasikala seems to be in control. The images from Rajaji Hall prove that her family is in control. In six months there could be some change,” a senior politician said.