- Ms Natarajan lived in palatial Poes Garden with Jayalalithaa for years
- AIADMK needs new chief, party doesn't deny Ms Natarajan is a front-runner
- Mr Panneerselvam stood in as Chief Minister for Jayalalithaa twice before
Ms Natarajan holds no official position in the party or the government, but she has been at the centre of political activity ever since Ms Jayalalithaa, the party's general secretary for 27 years, had a cardiac arrest on Sunday and died the next day. Ms Natarajan, a former video store owner who lived for years at the palatial Poes Garden bungalow with Ms Jayalalithaa, placed herself prominently near her body as it lay in state on Tuesday and performed the last rites.
While O Panneerselvam was swiftly sworn in as chief minister hours after Chennai's Apollo Hospital announced the death of Ms Jayalalithaa, the AIADMK has to find a replacement for her as party chief and senior leaders do not deny that Ms Sasikala could be a front-runner. Increasingly it is clear that she will at least play a key role in decision-making.
For one it has to decide whether to call a meeting of the general council of the party for the election of a new chief. For years the party had no need for such meetings; so complete was Ms Jayalalithaa's control that no one questioned her, leave alone challenged her leadership.
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