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Challenge before Sasikala in post-Jaya Tamil Nadu

Dynastic succession is not the only means of attaining power in India. As the rise of Sasikala Natarajan in the AIADMK, being the companion of a leader revered by the party is another route. Jayalalithaa, too, followed this pattern. When her mentor M G Ramachandran died in 1987, his widow, Janaki, assumed his mantle but for a mere 24 days. Following an electoral defeat of her breakaway faction of the AIADMK, she had no option but to step aside, as MGR’s co-star in the film world and longstanding companion, Jayalalithaa, took the reins of a reunited party in her hands. This line of non-dynastic ascent to power is different from the one which is becoming the norm elsewhere. There are a number of parties where political power has been passing from father or husband to the wife or the widow and then to the children.

The 132-year-old Congress is the most notable among them. In the aftermath of Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination, his widow Sonia inherited his mantle and is now expected to bestow the organisational position on her son, Rahul.

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