CHENNAI: A former video cassette seller with close ties to Tamil Nadu's late leader will become the next chief minister of the Indian state, capping a remarkable rise for the political novice.

The ruling party in the southern state announced Sunday that VK Sasikala would become the next leader following the resignation of the acting chief minister. Her rise to the top had been rumoured since December, when beloved leader Jayalalithaa Jayaram died at the age of 68, plunging the state into political uncertainty. Sasikala -- a close confidante of Jayalalithaa but with no previous record of public office -- was soon afterwards elevated to head the ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) party, paving the way to the top job. "She is the next chief minister of Tamil Nadu. Like Amma, we wanted a strong woman leader to serve the people," party spokesperson C R Saraswathi told AFP, referring to Jayalalithaa by her popular nickname.

 O Panneerselvam, who had been filling in as chief minister since October when former film star Jayalalithaa was hospitalised, has stepped down.

Tamil Nadu's main opposition party were scathing, stressing the unorthodox nature of her ascent. "The people of Tamil Nadu did not vote for anyone from Jayalalithaa's household to become CM," opposition leader MK Stalin said on Twitter, using the acronym for chief minister.

Although Sasikala had never held any official position in the AIADMK or the state government before her election, she has long been known as "Chinnamma" (aunt) to the party because of her friendship with Jayalalithaa. The two met in the 1980s when Sasikala was running a video parlour and Jayalalithaa was a budding politician. It marked the beginning of a decades-long friendship dogged by corruption scandals and intermittent spells of bad blood.

Sasikala was briefly expelled from the party over allegations her family were misusing the Jayalalithaa name, but was allowed back in after she publicly distanced herself from her husband. In 2014, both Jayalalithaa and Sasikala were jailed for four years for corruption charges but were later acquitted. The death of the hugely popular Jayalalithaa, a three-time chief minister, on December 5 sparked a mass outpouring of grief across Tamil Nadu, with huge crowds lining the streets to pay tribute to her.