Politics

"Staying Away From Politics," Says VK Sasikala Ahead Of Tamil Nadu Polls

Expelled AIADMK chief VK Sasikala has quit politics, a letter said (File)

Chennai:

VK Sasikala, the expelled former chief of Tamil Nadu's ruling AIADMK - who was released from a Bengaluru jail in January and was widely expected to challenge for control of the party, and the Chief Minister's post in next month's election - will "stay away from politics and public life".

In her letter Ms Sasikala - a confidante of the late former Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa - wrote: "I have never been after power or position even when Jaya was alive. Won't do that after she is dead. I am staying away from politics to ensure AIADMK's 'golden government' in Tamil Nadu."

"I will pray to god and my sister (Jayalalithaa) for AIADMK's victory (and) urge supporters of AIADMK to work together and defeat the DMK (the primary opposition). I urge the party cadre to work to keep her legacy going," she added.

Ms Sasikala also thanked the BJP, which is allied with the AIADMK, for "working to unite the AIADMK to ensure votes don't split like the 2019 election".

In the 2019 Lok Sabha polls the BJP-AIADMK alliance was demolished; the BJP was shut out and the AIADMK got just one seat. The opposition DMK-Congress alliance won the remaining 38 seats.

Hours before Ms Sasikala's letter was released, the BJP said the AIADMK would take the final call on accommodating her in the party. The state party had, so far, ruled out allowing either Ms Sasikala or her nephew, TTV Dhinakaran and his Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam (AMMK) into the fold.

Last week she said, "as our amma (Ms Jayalalithaa) wished", AIADMK and AMMK should contest polls together.

Last month VK Sasikala, 66, fresh from jail and having recovered from a coronavirus infection, took the first step towards reclaiming her once-dominant position. She filed a plea in a Chennai court against Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami and Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam.

The case was to have been heard on March 15.

Ms Sasikala had stepped in as party chief after Jayalalithaa's death in December 2016, and was set to take her post when she was handed a four-year jail term for corruption.

Before she left for jail she handpicked Mr Palaniswami, or EPS, who was then a rival of Mr Panneerselvam, or OPS, who had rebelled against Ms Sasikala's claim, to take over. However, in her absence, the two patched up and had her removed from the post and the party.

Her return once again stirred turmoil in a party that has never quite recovered from the leadership vacuum left by the death of the charismatic and powerful Ms Jayalalithaa.

In January EPS, after a meeting with the BJP leadership, said VK Sasikala would not be taken back.

At the height of her power, VK Sasikala was a hugely influential force within the AIADMK, and was widely expected to be a key player in this election.

Tamil Nadu votes for a new government in a single phase on April 6, with results due May 2.