Only a few days after orchestrating a grand return from prison, the expelled AIADMK leader V K Sasikala’s decision to keep off electoral politics took everyone by surprise. No one would waste money and effort in lining up cheering crowds as if a triumphant monarch was returning home without the ambition to assert her leadership, rescuing the people from the misrule of those who had usurped the party of her late friend and mentor, J Jayalaithaa.
But the question as to what led her to withdraw from the forthcoming assembly poll in Tamil Nadu remains to be answered. Neither her supporters nor detractors have a clue. Suspicion that the BJP leadership 'persuaded’ her is hard to counter. Be that as it may, Sasikala has smoothened things for Chief Minister Edapaddi Palaniswami who, it must be acknowledged, has grown in status, consolidating his grip both on the government and the party. His ambitious Deputy CM O Panneerselvam too has fallen in line.
But Sasikala’s withdrawal may have damaged the prospects of her nephew TTV Dhinakaran. Without her, he would feel orphaned as a budding politician. The two together were supposed to recapture control of the AIADMK from Palaniswami. Dhinakaran’s own AMMK will lack pulling power to wean away Jayalalithaa’s followers.
Quite clearly, the BJP might be a minor presence on the ground in Tamil Nadu, but due to its strong perch at the Centre, it is playing a huge role in the state politics. Whether it is for the good of the AIADMK, only the poll outcome can show.