In an anti-climax that will cheer the AIADMK, its ousted general secretary V K Sasikala on Wednesday announced her decision to “step aside” from politics after it became clear that the current leadership of the party once she controlled from the side lines was hesitant to take her back.
Sasikala, who arrived in Tamil Nadu to a rousing reception by her supporters on February 9 following her release from Parappana Agrahara prison with a vow to jump into “active politics”, made the announcement in a two-page statement that harped on about her “close association” with former Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa.
The dramatic announcement by Sasikala comes exactly a week after she appealed to the “true loyalists” of Jayalalithaa to “unite” to ensure that the AIADMK government is voted back to power in the April 6 assembly elections.
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“I never aspired for any position or post. I will always be grateful to the people of Tamil Nadu and cadre of J Jayalalithaa. I will step aside from politics and continue to pray that Amma’s (Jayalalithaa) Government is established in Tamil Nadu,” Sasikala said in her “farewell” statement.
Sasikala also urged all true loyalists of Jayalalithaa to work towards keeping “our common enemy” DMK, as identified by the late leader, out of power and continuing with “Amma’s golden rule” in the state.
Sasikala’s decision will allow Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami to further strengthen his hold in the AIADMK ahead of the crucial elections. In fact, Palaniswami’s unrelenting opposition to taking back Sasikala or Dhinakaran into the AIADMK or the alliance is one of the reasons for the close confidante of Jayalalithaa to “step aside” from politics.
Another reason could be the absence of an upheaval, which she certainly expected, in the AIADMK after her return from Parapanna Agrahara prison – not even second-rung leaders of the party made any effort to meet her or give statements in her favour.
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However, Palaniswami might now come under pressure from the BJP to allow it to share a few seats from its kitty to Sasikala’s nephew T T V Dhinakaran’s Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam (AMMK) to prevent any split of votes. Dhinakaran, sans Sasikala, will not be a threat to Palaniswami in the immediate future. And for Dhinakaran too, the “common enemy” is DMK.
If one reads the carefully drafted statement between the lines, it gives room to interpretation that Sasikala might make a comeback to politics post-assembly elections in the event of AIADMK losing power as she has used the word “stepping aside” and not quitting.
The surprise announcement will come as a disappointment to DMK which was hoping that Sasikala’s “re-entry” into politics will create confusion within the AIADMK. The development will now allow allies like Congress, VCK, and Left parties, who are upset over the number of seats offered to them, to play the hard ball with DMK.
Palaniswami, hand picked by Sasikala as Chief Minister in 2017 before she went to serve her four-year term in a disproportionate assets (DA) case, stonewalled BJP’s proposal to induct her into the party or alliance, maintaining that the “core vote bank” of the AIADMK stays with the party and not the splinter group.
Palaniswami, considered a political lightweight, consolidated his position within the AIADMK by side lining all his potential challengers, notably his one-time boss O Panneerselvam, who is now playing the second fiddle to him.