Chennai: Nearly two months after her conviction and sentencing in the wealth case, AIADMK chief J Jayalalithaa is back in action with a series of measures to restructure the party and strengthen it in the run-up to the 2016 assembly election. The move is also aimed at reinforcing her position within the party despite the legal setback and meant to convey to the rank and file that she is still at the helm.
While the shake-up within AIADMK has been minor, including merging of some party districts, the signals are clear, that Jayalalithaa is back in the hot seat. The Supreme Court guidelines mandate her disqualification as MLA, after her conviction in a corruption case, but they don't prevent her from managing party affairs. She has restructured the party administration in all 12 city corporations and made similar restructuring at the union level in a few districts. In the first phase, select unions have been divided into two in many districts.
"Our party has not been restructured since the delimitation of parliamentary constituencies in 2008. Now, our leader has decided to reorganize the party ahead of the assembly polls. This would facilitate better field work," a senior AIADMK leader said. Jayalalithaa said party men holding posts at the zone and ward levels in corporation areas would retain their positions even after the re-organisation.
Lower level leaders have been complaining about lack of communication from the leadership on important party matters. Jayalalithaa has been meeting only select leaders, including chief minister O Pannerselvam and some senior ministers. "Many of the second-rung leaders, including party MPs, have no clarity on various issues. We don't know what kind of village can be adopted under the central government-sponsored Saansad Adarsh Gram Yojna. We have many leaders, including M Thambidurai, A Navaneethakrishnan and Dr P Venugopal, but we don't know from whom to take instructions," said a debutant MP. But, with Jayalalithaa back in action, the mood within the party is upbeat.
Meanwhile, AIADMK is also gearing up for its annual general council meeting in December-end, by which time the party organizational elections would be completed. "Amma has already been unanimously re-elected as party general secretary for the seventh time in August this year. The elections for other posts would be completed before the general council meeting," the MP said. "Usually, the new office-bearers are chosen by the leadership," he said.
The names of party treasurer and presidium chairman would be officially announced at the general council meeting. "A resolution will be passed at the meeting, formally approving the new appointments," the MP said. Observers say that Jayalalithaa is likely to play a larger role in managing party affairs rather than hand over the entire responsibility to close associate Sasikalaa. "The changes effected in the party by Jayalalithaa are a message to her cadres and people that she is in full control of the party," said N Sathiyamoorthy, director of the Chennai chapter of the Observer Research Foundation, a think tank.