Tamil Nadu

Analysis: Sasikala ‘surfaces’ in AIADMK circles

V.K. Sasikala

V.K. Sasikala  

The reactions of certain leaders to queries on her 'rehabilitation' seem to indicate that she still has some currency in the party.

The “political personality” of V.K Sasikala, aide of former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa, appears to be looming again over Tamil Nadu's ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), which she briefly headed before her incarceration in Bengaluru in February 2017.

In recent weeks, the discourse within and outside the party has been on the “role” she would have in the event of her premature release, though the possibility of her being set free in the immediate future has been ruled out by Karnataka Director General of Prisons N.S. Megarikh. The reactions of certain leaders to queries on her 'rehabilitation' seem to indicate that she still has some currency in the party. Notwithstanding the adverse publicity that she had drawn over the years, especially after Jayalalithaa’s death, there are some party leaders who do not consider Sasikala a “political liability.”

About a week ago, Milk and Dairy Development Minister K.T. Rajenthra Bhalaji, who hails from Virudhunagar district, publicly expressed his desire for the premature release of Sasikala. While he said she would not join any other party, he hastened to add that it was for the AIADMK’s joint leadership – Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami and Deputy Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam – to decide on her “reinduction” into the party.

Strangely, even Mr. Panneerselvam, who had rebelled against Sasikala after being ejected as Chief Minister in February 2017 and ran a campaign called ‘dharmayudham’, to a journalist’s question recently on the matter, did not say anything against her. Instead, he said it was for senior office-bearers of the party to take a call and he would express his opinion in such a meeting.

However, a couple of days later, Fisheries Minister D. Jayakumar — regarded in certain quarters as the Chief Minister’s alter ego — categorically said neither Sasikala nor her nephew and founder of the Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam (AMMK) T.T.V. Dhinakaran would be reinducted into the AIADMK.

The eruption of the talk has puzzled many. However, there is speculation that the BJP is behind it, in the light of a meeting former civil servant V.S. Chandralekha, known as BJP leader Subramanian Swamy’s associate, had with Sasikala late in August. When contacted by The Hindu about a month ago, Ms. Chandralekha refused to answer any question on the meeting.

However, K.S. Narendran, BJP’s general secretary, has emphatically denied the involvement of his party in any attempt to get Sasikala released earlier than the stipulated period of four-year imprisonment, which will come to an end in early 2021. He blamed his party’s political adversaries for triggering the talk at a time when the health of the BJP-AIADMK ties was “robust.” Besides, he was suspicious as the debate had erupted on the eve of [now concluded] the by-elections in the Nanguneri and Vikravandi Assembly constituencies.

Nijanthan, senior journalist, saw in the latest episode a “nuanced tussle” between Mr. Palaniswami and Mr. Panneerselvam. “It looks that each one sought to checkmate the other, if one is to go by the sequence of events,” he felt. The perception that Sasikala would be the unifying factor had no basis, under the existing circumstances, he added.

However, K. P. Munusamy, the party’s deputy coordinator and a strong critic of Sasikala, asserted that there was no need for indulging in a talk on Sasikala's 're-entry', as it was against her brand of politics that the ‘dharmayudham’ was conducted. Also, the merger of the groups – led by Mr. Palaniswami and Mr. Panneerselvam – happened in August 2017 as they were one on the issue.

Va. Pugazhendhi, a rebel AMMK leader and self-proclaimed follower of Sasikala, was clear about one aspect. “When Sasikala comes out of the prison, she will never act against the present government or the AIADMK,” he said

Regardless of the pros and cons of her “re-entry,” it is clear that Sasikala, as a “political personality,” continues to arouse curiosity, though she may not be in a position to be in active politics.

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Printable version | Apr 1, 2020 2:04:09 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/analysis-sasikala-factor-keeps-aiadmk-leaders-divided/article29776371.ece

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