Updated: February 4, 2021 5:43:08 pm
V K Sasikala’s incarceration in the disproportionate asset case came to an end Wednesday. However, since she is being treated for Covid-19 at a Bengaluru hospital, it may take a few more days for Sasikala to reach Chennai.
But the question that Tamil Nadu is asking, is what next for Sasikala? A lot has changed in the years J Jayalalithaa’s confidante has been in prison. Rebel leader O Panneerselvam, who was ousted by Sasikala from the CM’s post before going to the prison, is back in the AIADMK. And the Chief Minister she handpicked, Edappadi K Palaniswami, had joined hands with the ‘betrayer’ Panneerselvam and ousted her from the party’s top post, leaving her no room to return even though she commanded huge respect for about three decades as J Jayalalithaa’s proxy.
Now, according to her close aides and relatives, who held negotiations with various political camps ahead of her release, there are only a few options left for Sasikala.
Option 1: Rejoin AIADMK
An obvious option is to rejoin AIADMK by striking a deal with Palaniswami and Panneerselvam. “The plan was to let them run the government as Sasikala takes leadership of the party. But Palaniswami wasn’t ready for this as he feared he would be forced to work under Sasikala in the party if AIADMK was defeated in the Assembly polls,” said a senior AIADMK leader close to both Palaniswami and Sasikala.
Option 2: AIADMK gets AMMK as an ally
Multiple sources in the AIADMK said an alliance with AMMK, the party founded by Sasikala’s nephew TTV Dhinakaran after her ouster from AIADMK, could be an option. This is after Palaniswami ruled out chances of Sasikala’s return to the AIADMK fold. There are many senior leaders in the AIADMK who are supporting this idea, but are yet to make public statements in this regard.
There are reasons for both parties to make this happen: the plan could help AMMK survive and maybe reenter the party eventually; and for the AIADMK, it could better their chances in the upcoming Assembly elections at a time when DMK seems to have an edge as a powerful opposition with strong allies.
Option 3: AMMK leads a third front
Going by the latest developments, what is likely to happen is AMMK forming a third front to defeat AIADMK in the election. In the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, Dhinakaran’s AMMK received about 4 per cent of the vote share, which is about 15 per cent of AIADMK votes.
Insiders who are in touch with both AIADMK and AMMK said the party would form the third front, most likely, this time to defeat “betrayers” in the AIADMK. “Last time (2016), she formed the third front to defeat the opposition by splitting anti-government votes. This time, the AMMK-led third front will split pro-government votes,” said a senior AIADMK leader.
S Ramadoss’s PMK and Captain Vijayakanth’s DMDK are among the other parties who may be joining the third front in such a scenario. Any conflicts or disputes over seat-sharing in the DMK alliance also might help this third front gain more allies.
“The entire party will come to Sasikala’s control eventually if AIADMK is defeated in the election. Neither Palaniswami nor Panneerselvam have absolute control over the party. It is just they have ministers and MLAs with them for running a government,” a source close to the Sasikala family claimed.
Option 4: Sasikala exits politics
There are also people who believe that Sasikala may not make a comeback, but will do what Rajinikanth did; calling off her political plans citing health reasons. Sasikala has more credible health reasons, compared to Rajinikanth, to stay away from politics.
But people who worked closely with her believe she will not give up. Remember, she took a pledge at Jayalalithaa’s memorial, thumping the ground thrice, before she was imprisoned.
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