Former AIADMK general secretary V K Sasikala visited the memorial of late party chief J Jayalalithaa on Saturday for the first time since her release from jail in Bengaluru in February this year. In what can be seen as an indication of her willingness to return to politics, Sasikala said that she told the former CM at her memorial everything that had transpired within the party so far, “and assured her of a better future for the party”.
Sasikala’s last visit to the memorial was in 2017, before surrendering herself as a convict in the disproportionate assets case. She had then taken a vow by hitting the marble slabs of the memorial.
Saturday’s visit holds significance since AIADMK begins celebrations of the 50th anniversary of the party’s foundation on Sunday. Sasikala’s visit in a charged environment, followed by hundreds of followers holding flags of both Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam (AMMK) of her nephew T T V Dhinakaran and of the AIADMK, was also a prelude to her statewide tour, likely starting from Tanjavur on October 27.
After paying tearful tributes at Jayalalithaa’s memorial, Sasikala told the media, “Amma (Jayalalithaa) was inseparable when it came to my life…. Here I was relieving myself from all the pains I had gone through in the last five years. I told her what had happened so far, and assured her a better future for the party. I am sure Amma and Thalaivar (AIADMK founder M G Ramachandran) will save the party and our cadres.”
Sasikala lived in Jayalalithaa’s Poes Garden residence in Chennai from the late 1980s until the latter’s death in December 2016, barring six months in 2011 when she was ousted over a tussle with Jayalalithaa.
A close aide told The Sunday Express that Sasikala will meet party functionaries on October 27 at Tanjavur, where she will also attend a family function. “In the next three days, she will address party meetings at Tirunelveli, Tenkasi, and Ramanathapuram. At each place, indoor meetings are being planned for not less than 1,000 people, leaving no doubt about her larger political plans,” the source said.
After Sasikala’s release in February, her decision to stay away from politics during the Assembly polls had surprised many. There was speculation that she was either avoiding a situation in which she had to directly take on AIADMK electorally, or was asked to stay away by BJP, which was an ally of then ruling AIADMK, now led by former CM Edappadi K Palaniswami and then deputy CM O Panneerselvam, leaders who had ousted her from the party.
But those close to Sasikala had claimed that her temporary withdrawal from politics was strategic, as AIADMK’s defeat was almost certain in the Assembly polls even without her. “If she was in the fray, then she would have been blamed for AIADMK’s defeat. Now that AIADMK is defeated, and is almost leader-less, she is certain about her path ahead,” a close aide said.
After her release from prison, and a brief withdrawal from politics at the peak of state elections, she had activated her camp again in May by directly dialling many ordinary party workers in districts and strategically leaking those audio conversations to the media to signal her plans. In her conversations, she was heard assuring them about the party’s future and her commitment to revive the party.
Explained: With a little ‘help’ from DMK govt
Besides multiple corruption cases being pursued by the DMK government against ex-CM Palaniswami and his close associates, a widening gap between EPS and his former deputy CM OPS is likely to favour Sasikala. Politically, DMK also favours Sasikala’s return to politics, as it would help them destroy Palaniswami’s dominance in western Tamil Nadu. The DMK also calculates Sasikala will help slow down BJP’s growth and control of AIADMK, as she is a tougher leader to control than either EPS or OPS
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