Released from jail, is Sasikala planning on returning to the political fray?

VK Sasikala sent out a strong political message to her supporters when she travelled in former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa’s trademark Toyota Prado vehicle with an AIADMK flag
Released from jail, is Sasikala planning on returning to the political fray?
VK Sasikala

VK Sasikala sent out a strong political message to her supporters, minutes after her discharge following treatment for Covid at Victoria Hospital in Bengaluru. The expelled AIADMK General Secretary left the hospital premises in former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa’s trademark Toyota Prado vehicle with an AIADMK flag, a clear message of what her intentions in the coming days are.

The move to use Jayalalithaa’s vehicle and the party flag is an indication of her inclination to plunge into active politics. Although she was removed as interim general secretary of the AIADMK by the new leadership under O Panneerselvam and Edappadi K Palaniswami in 2017, Sasikala had challenged her removal from the post in courts, and she is likely to pursue the cases upon her return to Chennai.

Her nephew and Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam (AMMK) chief TTV Dinakaran said that Sasikala, who has recovered from Covid-19, would be in isolation for another week as per doctor’s orders. “She is the AIADMK General Secretary. She was unanimously nominated to that post in December 2016. We have been stating this since then and have been fighting it in the court as well. She is the one who has to take all political decisions. That is what AMMK has said even back then and we say even now,” said Dinakaran to the media.

While Dinakaran had stated that Sasikala was still the General Secretary of AIADMK and that the vehicle bore the party flag as she was “in the position” to use it, Sasikala’s move has led to speculation that she may function as a separate entity, thus distancing herself from her nephew and his party. As Tamil Nadu stares at its most crucial polls in recent years, and Sasikala’s presence in Chennai likely to create ripples in Tamil Nadu politics, AIADMK continues to assert that her release from jail will have no impact on the government and the party. Political observers, however, suggest that Sasikala might get support from senior leaders of the party who have been sidelined and are upset with AIADMK’s decision to ally with BJP.

However, the current Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and Deputy Chief Minister are confident of their command in the party as Sasikala was barred from contesting elections for 10 years after her conviction in 2017. However, she will have to wait till 2031 to contest the state election, as the next assembly polls would be due in 2026.

Meanwhile, AIADMK’s deputy coordinator and Rajya Sabha member KP Munusamy condemned the use of the party flag by Sasikala, who was not a member of the party. Maintaining that the AIADMK would never merge with the AMMK, he said the party leadership would consider taking in Dinakaran if he offered an apology letter for acting against the AIADMK and made a request.

Sasikala had recaptured the AIADMK government from the rebel leader O Panneerselvam through a floor test in the Assembly in early 2017, amid a tussle for power in Tamil Nadu following Jayalalithaa’s death. Although she installed EK Palaniswami, a trusted aide as Chief Minister, he turned on her by entering a merging deal with O Panneerselvam after she was jailed in a case in which Jayalalithaa was the first accused. In February 2017, the Supreme Court upheld the trial court’s conviction against Sasikala and her two relatives in the disproportionate assets case.

A close aide of the late Jayalalithaa and ex-general secretary of AIADMK, Sasikala, who completed a four-year sentence in connection with the disproportionate assets case, was admitted to a private hospital after contracting Covid-19 just days before her release from Parappana Agrahara prison in Bengaluru on January 27. She will be returning to Tamil Nadu after a week’s stay at Prestige Golfshire Club in Bengaluru.

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