Chennai, Dec 8: With the death of its most charismatic leader, the question that is engaging the AIADMK leaders, cadre and others is who will now head the party after Jayalalithaa and whether it could be her close aide Sasikala.
Filling the void may not be quite easy given the absence of a second line of leadership and the absence of any "heir" identified by the late leader, who had the party under her total command.
An indication of things to come may be had from the fact that Chief Minister O Panneerselvam today held two-hour long discussions with Sasikala, who is widely perceived to be a power centre in the party, more so after Jayalalithaa's death.
Sasikala's supporters in the party claim that she should be the "natural choice," for the post of General Secretary held by Jayalalithaa, not all others are willing to concede it. Her mentor MGR had held the post from the party's inception in 1971 till his death in 1987.
Sasikala's supporters say that she had been Amma's "aide, sister, friend and confidante," for 30 years through Jayalalithaa's "ups and downs." With O Panneerselvam taking over as Chief Minister, she should be the "ideal choice," they say.
A senior party functionary requesting anonymity said, "go back in history and make your own inference if Amma's loyalists and people will accept her (Sasikala)."
He recalled Jayalalithaa expelling Sasikala twice from the party, once in 1996 after the AIADMK's electoral drubbing and in 2011 months after the party wrested power again from DMK. Such factors had cast a shadow on her as a potential choice to lead the party, he said.
He said Amma herself had announced in 1996 that she was distancing herself from Sasikala and her family to respect the wishes of partymen. Sasikala's expulsion came against the background of allegations of corruption during the 1991-96 AIADMK regime. The DMK government had arrested Jayalalitha and Sasikala and filed cases against them.
It was also in deference to a public perception that AIADMK was routed in the 1996 Assembly polls only because of Jayalalithaa's association with Sasikala and her kin.
In particular, the extravagant wedding of Jayalalithaa's foster son VN Sudhakaran, since disowned, in 1995 as among the reasons for her expulsion.
On December 19, 2011, Sasikala, her husband M Natarajan, and 12 others who were their close relatives were expelled from the primary membership of the party.