With Sasikala Natarajan surrendering before the trial court in Bengaluru following her conviction in the disproportionate assets case, it is her family--(in)famously known as Mannargudi Mafia--that is believed to be now running the show in Tamil Nadu.
Before leaving for the court, Sasikala brought her nephews TTV Dinakaran and S Venkatesh back into the AIADMK fold. The party, without wasting any time, named Dinakaran its deputy general secretary--a position that virtually makes him the de-facto leader in aunt Sasikala's absence.
Dinakaran and Venkatesh, along with Sasikala, her husband M Natarajan and other members of her family, were expelled from the party by Jayalalithaa in December 2011 on the charges of interfering in the government's functioning.
While Sasikala's expulsion was revoked by Jayalalithaa within 100 days after the former tendered a public apology, the other members of the Sasikala family, or the Mannargudi gang, were kept at an arm's length by Amma. Sasikala had then said in her letter that she was not aware of her relatives misusing her proximity to Jayalalithaa and bringing "disrepute" to the party and her 'Akka'
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According to some reports, the Sasikala family was not allowed to enter Poes Garden till the time Jayalalithaa was alive.
The scenario changed completely following Jayalalithaa's death on December 5. Hours after her death, the Mannargudi gang was back in action. Sasikala and her family were seen next to Jayalalithaa's casket all through the funeral ceremony-- a gesture that riled many, including Jayalalithaa's niece Deepa Jayakumar.
In no time, the Mannargudi gang swooped down on Poes Garden. Sasikala's sister-in-law Ilavarasi, nephews Vivek Jayaraman, S Venkatesh, TV Mahadevan, and her niece's husband Sivakumar were back at Amma's residence.
WHAT IS THE MANNARGUDI MAFIA?
AIADMK General Secretary Sasikala Natarajan belongs to Mannargudi, a town in Tiruvarur district of Tamil Nadu. Sasikala was running a video-rental and video-recording shop in the early 1980s when she met Jayalalithaa. Her proximity to Jayalalithaa increased over time, and by the time the latter became the chief minister in 1991, Sasikala was running the Jaya household in Poes Garden.
Credit: India Today magazine
In a simultaneous development, members of her family also saw a rise in their fortunes. From real estate to television, members of Sasikala's family from Mannargudi were allegedly controlling everything in the state.
The family, now increasingly referred to as the 'Mannargudi Mafia', wielded great influence in political and bureaucratic circles, sometimes reportedly tipping the scales in favour of one candidate against the other during elections.
The Mannargudi family's fortunes reversed, or at least took a hit, when Jayalalithaa decided to banish them from her party in 2011, with some being sent to prison as well.
THE MAFIA IS BACK
As Jayalalitaa's death led to questions on who would lead the party next, Sasikala's estranged husband Natarajan was d by media outlets as saying "a common man lead the party".
The man, who was imprisoned under Jayalalithaa's rule, is now widely speculated to be the one who is calling the shots in AIADMK. According to a report in Catchnews, it was Natarajan who convinced the MLAs to sign the declaration stating O Panneerselvam would replace Jayalalithaa as the chief minister.
Natarajan, who was a government public relations officer, had introduced Sasikala to Jayalalithaa through IAS officer VS Chandralekha.
Dinakaran, who is the son of Sasikala's sister (late) Vanithamani, is touted as Chinnamma's right-hand man.
The newly-appointed deputy general secretary of AIADMK, was booked under the Foreign Exchange Regulation Act (FERA), after the Enforcement Directorate had detected large cash deposits in his bank accounts during 1991-1996, during Jayalalithaa's first stint as chief minister.
Recently, the Madras High Court, while delivering the verdict in the case, had asked Dinakaran to pay a penalty of Rs 25 crore--a fine the ED had earlier slapped on him.
For those who don't remember him, he was once Jayalalithaa's foster son whose extravagant wedding with Sivaji Ganesan's granddaughter in 1995 raised a lot of eyebrows. The ostentatious display of wealth fuelled public resentment against Jayalalithaa, with the latter losing the elections in 1996.
Soon after, Jayalalithaa disowned him. Sudhakaran, who is the brother of Dinakaran, reappeared on the scene when he went to Apollo Hospitals to meet an ailing Jayalalithaa.
In the DA case verdict, Sudhakaran too has been convicted and will serve a four-year sentence.
Son of Sasikala's late brother Jayaraman, Vivek was the auditor of Jayalalithaa. His mother Ilavarasi has been convicted by Supreme Court in the disproportionate assets.
Vivek is now taking care of the family's ventures in cinema. According to The Telegraph report , Jayalalithaa in her will has apparently left her farmland in Hyderabad to Vivek.
Known as 'boss' in Mannargudi, Divaharan was arrested by the Tamil Nadu police in 2013 in a land grab case.
Sasikala's brother, an influential businessman in the Cauvery delta region, was accused of demolishing a hut. He was on the run before being arrested by the police.