As Sasikala plans to regain a foothold in AIADMK and state politics, AIADMK leadership clearly sent out the message that the doors are shut for her. But she is unrelenting.
V K Sasikala, close aide of late former Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa, has been taking concerted efforts to re-enter politics and regain her clout in the AIADMK. In March, just before the assembly elections , Sasikala, announced that she was stepping aside from active politics bringing much relief to the AIADMK . But now after AIADMK lost power, she is trying her best to return.
She has been releasing audio clip, one after the other, in which Sasikala is heard speaking to her loyalists assuring them that she will return and take control of AIADMK. In one of the audio, Sasikala said, “ I could not bear the pain of seeing the party getting ruined. Don't worry, for the sake of the cadre, very soon, I will be back. Good things will happen. We will reconstruct the party as it was during the times of Amma after the demise of Thalaivar”.
As several such audio clips are doing rounds in the social media, former Chief Minister and the AIADMK's joint coordinator, Edappadi K Palaniswami, has rubbished the conversations with functionaries, Former Fisheries Minister D Jayakumar categorically dismissed the audio clips and asserted that the AIADMK remained strong and functioning well without Sasikala, and it would continue to do so.
Senior AIADMK leader C Ponnaiyan claimed that Sasikala did not belong to the 'two leaves party' and that she had no rights to revive AIADMK. He maintained that Sasikala belonged to her nephew TTV Dhinakaran's Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam (AMMK) and that she had no locus standi in talking about the revival of AIADMK. Deputy coordinator K.P. Munusamy said, “There is no link between her and the party. She is no longer in the party. Some persons are propping her up with a view to creating confusion in the AIADMK that is functioning well as the principal Opposition party”. Another AIADMK veteran leader S. Semmalai said there was no need for her to be concerned about the state of affairs in the party as “she has nothing to do with it”. He said the leadership had been working “cohesively”.
It was learnt that Sasikala has released over 150 audio clips of purported conversations with the AIADMK cadre in the last two weeks. As multiple leaked audio clips of Sasikala surfaced triggering speculations of her return to the party fold, the AIADMK leadership decided to take stock of the situation.
The party high command convened a meeting at the headquarters in Chennai on 14th June and took some firm decisions. The legislators unanimously passed a decision to take stringent action against those who spoke with ousted AIADMK leader VK Sasikala. Also, a total of 17 functionaries, including spokesperson V Pugazhendhi, were expelled from the primary membership of AIADMK on grounds of “bringing disrepute to the party”. The AIADMK leaders had clearly sent out the message that those who reached out to Sasikala did not belong to the party. The party also called Sasikala’s audio clips as a ‘strange drama’ and categorically stated that the party will “never destroy itself for the aspirations of one family”.
Sasikala has separate grievances against both leaders – Palanisamy and Pabbeerselvam. While Panneerselvam revolted against Sasikala and questioned her authority, Sasikala chose him Palanisamy and expected him to be loyal to her, but he became the main hurdle to her return to the party after her release from prison. Though BJP was engaged in negotiations for a merger between Sasikala camp and the AIADMK before polls, it did not materialise. It is learnt that Panneerselvam who despite revolting against Sasikala in 2017 and staging “Dharma Yudh”, had supported the idea of her comeback while Palaniswami who strongly opposed the idea fearing that Sasikala would capture the party if she and her nephew T T V Dhinakaran were given the space. Edapadi Palanisamy stood firm on his decision and put a brave dace to say no to BJP’s the idea of merger. When AIADMK lost the power, Sasikala expected the tussle between Palaniswami and Panneerselvam camps to escalate, so that she can make re-entry.
Though the current twin leadership of Edapadi Palanisamy and O Panneerselvam , has kept Sasikala out of the party, there exists simmering differences between the two leaders. The defeat in the assembly elections has further eroded the relationship between the two leaders. While, in the last four years Edapadi Palanisamy has consolidated his position, Panneerselvam has been slowly losing his clout within the party. On the other hand Sasikala, though announced her intention to step aside from active politics, has been waiting for a right opportunity to strike.
The rift between the two leaders has provided a golden opportunity for Sasikala to regain a foothold in AIADMK. But, the it like that two leaders have once again compromised their stands. The party high command covenned a high level meeting to ensure that Sasikala does not succeed in her palns to take control of the party. The party high command also passed the unanimous resolution warning of the cadres of stern disciplinary action against those in the party if they interacted with ousted party leader V K Sasikala.
But, after AIADMK passed a resolution and even expelled 17 functionariers for being in touch with Sasikala, she has remained undeterred and vouched that she will return to politics.In her latest audio clip released after the resolution, she told a cadre, , "Because it's lockdown I'm unable to come out. Definitely, I'll return soon. I'll come definitely, don't worry. I'll definitely meet you all. Don't worry".
Further in the conversation with a cadre she has accused the current AIADMK leadership and that they do not know how to handle the party as a principle opposition party and go on simply sacking people. She added that in 2017 after Jayalalithaa’s death had Pannerselvam not revolted against her and resigned, she would have retained him as.
She accused that currently AIADMK, which was nurtured carefully by both M G Ramaachandran and Jayalalithaa as a party for all caste and communities, is slipping from its unique position and is slowly becoming a particular community party. Obviously she has referred Palanisamy’s dominance and his caste especially in the western parts of Tamil Nadu.
She also made an emotional pitch and said, “They back stabbed me and removed me from the party. I also stepped aside during the elections. But they lost poorly. Now, at this juncture, I am deeply worried about the cadres who are thoroughly disappointed. They simply want me to regain control and fulfil Jayalalithaa’s ambition of ruling Tamil Nadu for 100 years. I have the responsibility to save the party and re-establish the rule of 'Amma'. I just cannot remain a mute spectator and allow them to destroy the party. I will definitely make a comeback for which the time has arrived. I will be plunge in to actively politics after the lockdown is lifted”.
While Palaniswamy, has emphatically stated that the party's stand is that Sasikala and her family have no place in the party, Pannerselvam has not openly criticised her return. In fact he is expected to support Sasikala if she comes forward to lead a political front. It remains to be seen whether she can regain control of the party or it is just a drama she is enacting to threaten the current leadership.