It is one of the most famous and celebrated friendships in Tamil Nadu, the one between Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa and Sasikala.
Sasikala was like a shadow that followed Jayalalithaa everywhere, in defeat as well as in power. She was behind Jayalithaa in her van during election campaigns, handing out speech notes written on small cards, one by one. She was there besides her friend when she visited temples and other functions.
If Sasikala was decked up in all finery during Jayalalithaa's first tenure, she was devoid of heavy jewellery but in expensive saris later on.
All of a sudden, on Monday Jayalalithaa expelled Sasikala, her husband M Natarajan and 10 others that includes TTV Dinakaran and Sasikala's son and Jayalalitha's foster son, VN Sudhakaran, from her party, the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam. They were "being expelled from all posts, including the party's primary membership," Jayalalithaa said. She also asked her party-men not to have any truck with the expelled members.
Why has the friendship that lasted almost 25 years soured all of a sudden?
This is not the first time that Jayalalitha expelled Sasikala. In 1996, too, after Jayalalitha lost the elections, both of them were arrested by the then Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam government. Jayalalithaa was sent to prison and, before going to jail, she disassociated herself from Sasikala. But they became friends later.
It has been a long journey for Sasikala, who was a small-time video shop owner before she started ruling the home of Jayalalithaa -- 36, Poes Garden in Chennai -- and also became the most influential person in Tamil Nadu.
She must thank V Chandralekha, a former IAS officer and now the state president of the Janata Party, for introducing her to Jayalalithaa, the then propaganda secretary of the AIADMK. She used to regularly supply video cassettes to Jayalalithaa and, in no time, won her heart and permanent entry into the Poes Garden residence.
In fact, it was after Jayalalitha won a massive victory in 1991 that Sasikala moved in with her.
Perhaps Jayalalithaa needed a confidante after she was publicly humiliated and isolated in the party following MGR's death; perhaps Sasikala won her confidence then.
Naturally, the question that everyone is asking is, why has Jayalalithaa suddenly expelled Sasikala and her family without citing any reason? Is it a tactical move on the part of Jayalalithaa now that Sasikala is also one of the accused in a corruption case against her?Jayalalitha is accused of amassing wealth beyond her means during her first term as chief minister between 1991 and 1996, and a special court in Bengaluru is currently hearing the disproportionate assets case against her after the Supreme Court moved the hearing from Chennai to the Karnataka capital five years ago.