The Tamil Nadu political arena may witness a significant metamorphosis with the political comeback of VK Sasikala, the close aid of former chief minister J Jayalalithaa. As the expelled AIADMK general secretary Sasikala is all set to re-establish her footing in the party, she is likely to visit Jayalalithaa’s memorial on October 16, ahead of AIADMK’s 50th anniversary on October 17.
In light of the developments, here’s a look at the events that led to Sasikala coming back into the political limelight in Tamil Nadu.
In February 2017, Sasikala was sentenced to four years imprisonment in the Parappana Agrahara prison in Karnataka, along with her sister-in-law Ilavarasi and Jayalalithaa’s foster son Sudhakaran, in the case of disproportionate assets worth Rs 66 crore. She was released from prison when Tamil Nadu was preparing for assembly elections earlier this year. She was set free on January 27, 2021, after completing four years of imprisonment.
Sasikala tested positive for Covid-19 during the release and was discharged from a hospital after recovery a few days later.
The Tamil Nadu police denied permission for a grand welcome Sasikala back home in Chennai. She was supposed to reach on February 7, but her return was deferred by a day. Right from the Tamil Nadu border near Hosur, a grand welcome was given to Sasikala by her nephew and AMMK general secretary TTV Dhinakaran and his cadres, as she went to her residence in Chennai by road. Though there was a plan to visit memorials of former leaders like MGR, Anna and Jayalalithaa, they were shut down by the then AIADMK government days before her return.
On March 4, Sasikala stunned everyone by announcing her retirement from politics. She said, “Our target is to defeat common enemy DMK. I urge AIADMK and the party workers to stay united and fight the enemy. I have never gone after power.”
While she stayed away from the limelight for a couple of months, in May 2021 a leaked audiotape of Sasikala’s conversation with one of the party cadres hinted of her active return to active politics after the Covid-19 pandemic was over. Sasikala was heard saying that she would “definitely return”.
Later, a series of audiotapes were leaked where Sasikala was heard promising a return to action. The conversation between the expelled leader and her supporters in the party were leaked on social media, revealing that Sasikala had been in touch with her supporters in AIADMK over frequent phone calls and hinted at her political re-entry. Sasikala was heard saying, “I will definitely come back when the Covid-19 surge would be over. The party has gone a different way now. I will come soon and confront to capture and safeguard the party (AIADMK). If the party had acted in unity under ‘my’ leadership, it would have regained power and formed the government in the state again.”
This triggered AIADMK’s high command, where a meeting led by O Panneerselvam and Edappadi K Palaniswami in June passed a resolution against Sasikala. The meeting also saw the expulsion of party functionaries who established talks with her. The party leadership said Sasikala was trying to “hijack” the party.
A couple of months ago, Sasikala had said, “It’s the wish of the party cadres that I become the third-generation leader of the AIADMK party.” Accordingly, she is likely to visit Jayalalithaa’s memorial, which, political gazers predict, will be followed by a major announcement. Meanwhile, a petition was filed on behalf of Sasikala before the Chennai police commissioner, seeking appropriate security as she is scheduled to pay tribute at the memorials of MGR, Jayalalithaa and Anna at Chennai’s Marina Beach on October 16.
Senior journalist SP Lakshmanan told News18.com, “If AIADMK is again marching towards single-leadership chaos, EPS looks to emerge as the single leader of the party. Whereas OPS, owing to a lack of supporters and power, seeks to join hands with VK Sasikala and sketches to bring Sasikala legally into the party.”
Other notable political analysts said, “Unless OPS moves to Sasikala’s side, she wouldn’t be able to capture the AIADMK. Yet, BJP might play a major role in not letting the expelled leader to capture the party at ease. This is because sources claim Edappadi Palaniswami and O Panneerselvam and AIADMK are almost under the control of the BJP — in precise, OPS has been hugely controlled by BJP. Thus, BJP would plot to dust off old cases against Sasikala by blocking her to take steps forward. It is clear that EPS and a couple of ex-ministers are against Sasikala and her team, but most of the ex-ministers in the party and AIADMK MLAs are in secret support of their expelled leader. Moreover, the negative impact that the recent local body poll results in nine districts in the state has pulled down the party’s image and in turn might make numerous supporters to go behind VK Sasikala’s team. As Sasikala likes to act as an independent politician, who wouldn’t wish BJP to control her, thus making BJP to obviously oppose Sasikala and her ‘secret’ moves’.”