How VK Sasikala's Return Can Shake Up Tamil Nadu Politics Ahead Of Polls
VK Sasikala was sentenced to four years in jail for corruption
VK Sasikala, sacked AIADMK general secretary and close aide of former Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa, is out of jail but not out of hospital. She will have to be without oxygen support for at least three days before she is fit to move out and head to Chennai.
Even before her return to Tamil Nadu, Chief Minister E Palaniswamy went ahead with the opening of a Rs 79-crore memorial of Jayalalithaa, perhaps to emphasise that she has no place in the legacy of the former chief minister and the ruling AIADMK.
Sasikala was sentenced to four years in jail for corruption. How will her return impact Tamil Nadu politics just four months ahead of state elections?
The situation has taken a 180-degree turn from when she left for jail, after taking a vow, dramatically thumping Jayalalithaa's memorial three times. Chief Minister E Palaniswamy (EPS), who fell at her feet in gratitude after she handpicked him for the top post, has turned against her and has in fact shut the door on her. He also removed her as AIADMK general secretary.O Paneerselvam or OPS, the man who rebelled against Sasikala's leadership of the AIADMK, is now with EPS and a part of the AIADMK government as his deputy.Sasikala's nephew TTV Dhinakaran is also out of the AIADMK. He won the RK Nagar assembly constituency that fell vacant after Jayalalithaa's death and is now heading the AMMK, which managed close to 5 per cent votes in the previous election, but without the AIADMK's two-leaf symbol. It is, by itself, not a good option for Sasikala.What Sasikala can hope for is to retain the hold she is said to have on a section of AIADMK leaders, including MLAs. Within the AIADMK, there has been constant talk of OPS challenging EPS but as chief minister EPS has managed to assert himself and establish his numero uno position. OPS has been seen as BJP's man in the AIADMK.
Sasikala can be the leader for the Thevar caste. OPS, himself a Thevar, has not proved too effective in rallying supporters and many feel the Gounder caste of EPS has gained the upper hand in the AIADMK.A significant factor is the BJP, which had hoped that actor Rajinikanth would be their ticket into Tamil Nadu. With Rajinikanth abandoning his political plans, some BJP leaders had suggested Sasikala could be Plan B. For the record, the BJP has neither committed its support to nor backed EPS as the National Democratic Alliance candidate for Chief Minister even though the AIADMK made the announcement last year.
But Sasikala is disqualified because of her corruption conviction and cannot contest. She has, in fact, never contested polls and has always been a behind-the-scenes operator, right from the years she spent in the shadow of Jayalalithaa. Given her health after Covid and at a time when the AIADMK is, as many analysts would say, fighting with its back to the wall in this election, she would hardly want to be blamed for any possible setback for the party in the elections. She may prefer to wait and watch without jumping in straight away.