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While Sasikala’s expulsion was revoked by Jayalalithaa within 100 days after the former tendered a public apology, the other members of the Sasikala family, or the Mannargudi gang, were kept at an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’
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.