Behind the high walls of Poes Garden the politics of Tamil Nadu is decided – at least when Jayalalithaa is in power. But, few have any idea of what happens in that mysterious garden.From being the residence of a popular actor of yesteryears, it has turned into a virtual iron curtain ever since she stepped into the shoes of her mentor MGR and more so after being catapulted as chief minister in 1991.No wonder that it presents itself as a house of intrigues – evoking curiosity but allowing little or no information to find its way to the outside world.Unless summoned, it remains out of bounds even for party leaders and ministers not to speak of the ordinary AIADMK worker.So much so that ‘Garden’ in the political discourse and administrative lexicon of the state evokes awe and fear. Though located in the heart of the city and sporting a modern look, few would disagree that it functions on the lines of a medieval fortress.In the absence of any attempt to reach out and demystify the widely held public perception, the recent purge of V K Sasikala and her cabal has reinforced it further. For, it is no ordinary disciplinary action against errant party functionaries that could be swept under the carpet. At one stroke, the diva has banished her all-weather friend of three decades and 13 of her relatives, known as the ‘Mannargudi Mafia’.Ever since she entered the ‘Garden’ in 1991, Sasikala remains separated from her husband, M Natarajan, and has been living under the same roof with her spinster friend. She even went public on dumping her surname so as to prove that she has no relations with her husband.advertisementAPART from detractors and critics, party leaders who were marginalised attributed their fall from grace to this lady. Sasikala, who came from a modest background, hails from Mannargudi in Triuvarur district of the Cauvery delta region. Interestingly, it is the native district of DMK patriarch M Karunanidhi as well. But, there ends the similarity.For the unsuspecting, she is the villain along with her clan fattening parasites, who have spun an evil web around Jayalalithaa. Well, it is always easy to find a scapegoat! Reinforcing this is saffron ideologue Cho S Ramaswamy, for whom the Sasikala clan was an extra- constitutional authority interfering in the party and government.After initial hesitation, the Thuglak editor has acknowledged his role in this ‘course correction’or ‘ethnic cleansing’. But, he considers himself as a friend being looked upon for wise counsel.There are others who share similar views but with a difference. For them, Jayalalithaa has misplaced her trust. “Earlier, she was accessible and used to meet people. There was absolutely no hindrance. Things drastically changed after the arrival of Sasikala into the Garden. Somehow, Jayalalithaa was unable to wriggle out and remained a prisoner of circumstances,” says columnist and writer Solai, who had mentored her during the days of MGR. In his view, the purge was too late but nevertheless a welcome one.Every AIADMK stalwart who was either chased out or forced to leave the party blames the ‘Mannargudi Mafia’. From the Garden only orders would come which have to be complied with without questioning. Any indiscretion either by babus or party satraps would invite wrath.”When I raised this, no one listened. Had my warnings been heeded, things would not have come to such a pass and I would not have quit the party,” was the reaction of N Jothi, the former legal eagle for Jayalalithaa, who had been looking after her court cases.Though the diva told him that Sasikala was a mere household assistant not to be wary of, he had no other option but to leave and take refuge in the DMK.Well everyone has a tale of woes. But, this one is different. Enamoured by the Brahmin leadership of a Dravidian party, popular comedian and film actor S Ve Shekher joined the AIADMK with high hopes only to see them vanish into thin air within months.As a Brahmin having a place in the public domain, he had direct access to the diva. To his shock and surprise, he found himself ostracised within the party and his direct link too getting snapped.”I realised that the Garden has become an iron curtain. None could reach the leader without the knowledge of Sasikala who could not tolerate anyone getting closer to Jayalalithaa. I was loyal to Amma but sadly even my letters have not reached her and this I had found out only very late,” bemoans the comedian.advertisementIn his reasoning the diva has just started cleansing the stables. “Still 300 or more would have to be weeded out. Or else, the virus would sneak in and spread its tentacles,” he says.But, will the purge usher in a new life or simply pave the way for another clique in the Garden? Already murmurs are there that a Mylapore variant is all set to replace the Mannargudi Mafia! ===Cong faces ‘Stalinist’opposition from ally M K StalinDespite being allies, they are at daggers drawn! In the aftermath of the 2G scam, not only there is trust deficit between the Congress and the DMK but the latter finds it unpalatable to be in the company of the former.The disenchantment finds expression more frequently than ever in the context of the Mullaperiyar dam dispute with Kerala. While DMK patriarch M Karunanidhi is not for upsetting the applecart, his younger son and heir-apparent M K Stalin is least interested in continuing the alliance. Considering the national party as a spent force, he is of the view that carrying a dead wood would only be detrimental to the DMK’s interests.”It is hurting us rather than being a source of help. Moreover, the assembly and civic polls have clearly shown that the Congress has little relevance in state politics. How long should we be palanquin bearers?” was his poser aired in the party fora.In his opinion, in the wake of the Mullaperiyar row the Congress has lost even the little support it had in five southern districts. And he is not wrong. For, though the Congress represents three Lok Sabha seats in this region, it has not sprung to the defence of the farmers whose wrath was directed at J M Haroon, whose office was ransacked during an agitation. Stalin may be correct in his assessment but will Karunanidhi be prepared to give up even the fig leaf of support that the party has at the Centre? ===Home state offers no solace to beleaguered Chidambaram P ChidambaramAt a time when Union Home Minister P Chidambaram’s cup of woes is overflowing, he is finding no vocal support in his home turf.More than his detractors in the Opposition, Congress factions in Tamil Nadu are gleeful at his discomfiture. If the DMK had relished his name being dragged into the 2G scam earlier, now it is the turn of those from the Congress ranks. But, for fear of inviting the wrath of the high command, they guard against going public.With Chidambaram having lost face in his native Sivaganga where the Congress failed to put up a decent show in the civic poll, his isolation is getting accentuated. The lone voice of support comes from his Cabinet colleague G K Vasan, heading the dominant faction in the state. But, nothing much could be read into it apart from mere words of solidarity as no tears are shed for him. ===Nobody wants to be a minister advertisementM K AlagiriIt appears the DMK isn’t concerned about ministerial berths anymore. For, there is no clamour for claiming replacements for A Raja and Dayanidhi Maran and the party too seems to be once bitten twice shy.It is not as though the party has no interest in holding onto power. For, none can forget the party driving a hard bargain with the Congress to retain plum portfolios in the past.With the release of Kanimozhi on bail in the 2G case, there was expectation that DMK president M Karunanidhi would secure his favourite daughter a slot in the Union Cabinet to accord her some prominence. Her supporters even claimed that the patriarch was keeping it only to accommodate her. With a studied silence, the old man of Gopalapuram had scotched all such rumours.As of now, the thinking in the DMK is that getting replacements for the two slots would in no way enhance the party’s image or work towards its interests. Further, it would also open up old wounds within the Karunanidhi clan giving a fresh headache to the octogenarian.No wonder that the patriarch is playing it safe and avoiding unnecessary trouble. Well, this leaves the DMK’s southern strongman M K Alagiri as the lone representative in the Cabinet, though he finds the going tough in the national capital.