Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami today inaugurated a Rs 79-crore phoenix-shaped memorial built for late Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa along the Marina beach in Chennai. The four-time Chief Minister and former film star had died in 2016 after prolonged hospitalisation.
Interestingly, Mr Palaniswami opens the memorial on the same day when Ms Jayalalithaa's close friend VK Sasikala, who was convicted and jailed in the Rs 66-crore disproportionate assets case, was released from a Bengaluru jail after 4 years of imprisonment.
It was Ms Sasikala who handpicked and made Mr Palaniswami the Chief Minister after her attempts failed to become one herself. However, he rebelled and ousted her from the party after patching up with O Panneerselvam, whom he had replaced. Four years ago, before going to the Bengaluru jail, Ms Sasikala had visited Jayalalithaa's grave and taken a vow thumping her hand thrice on the structure built over her friend's grave.
Though coastal regulation zones prohibit new constructions along the beach, the state government, led by AIADMK, had buried J Jayalalithaa near her mentor MG Ramachandran along the beach, where the new memorial has been built.
The construction done using public money has now raised a controversy.
Just after Jayalalithaa's death the Supreme Court had upheld the conviction of all other accused in the disproportionate assets case. Ms Jayalalithaa was the prime accused.
"To build this using public is against the spirit of the Supreme Court judgement. It is unacceptable, against our traditions and rule of law," Tamil Nadu Congress President KS Alagiri said.
DMK Chief MK Stalin called it a political drama ahead of state elections citing the stalled probe into the circumstances leading to the death of Ms Jayalalithaa.
"Panneerselvam who demanded a probe into the mysterious death of J Jayalalithaa has not appeared before the commission and has sought adjournment ten times. We would probe this after capturing power," Mr Stalin said.
Prashanth, a member of the AIADMK IT wing, says the memorial is a "temple" for party members and followers. "She died before the Supreme Court judgement and hence it is wrong to call her a convict. The AIADMK will win a third consecutive term," he said.
With just four months to the state Assembly elections, the ruling AIADMK made the Wednesday event a huge spectacle by closing down the Marina beach road as thousands of party workers gathered on the stretch. There are also allegations that the ruling dispensation forced students of many colleges to assemble, but a state minister has denied them.
On Thursday, Mr Palaniswami is set to inaugurate another memorial at Jayalalithaa's Poes Garden residence, which has been acquired by the state government amid claims by her nephew and niece.