The dramatic return to Tamil Nadu of VK Sasikala, the expelled AIADMK leader and erstwhile confidante of the late J Jayalalithaa, to “active politics”, after four years in jail, is bound to sharply alter electoral calculations in the poll-bound state. In fact, the panic within the ruling AIADMK government could be gauged from the extent to which it went to try and prevent her return from becoming a public spectacle.
But the wily politician managed to turn the tables on the Edappadi K Palaniswami government by traveling in Jayalalithaa’s car, flaunting the official AIADMK flag, and taking 23 hours to cover the distance between Bengaluru and Chennai, with flag-waving crowds lining the route. By doing so, and by making clear her intentions to recapture the throne, the gauntlet has been thrown, not just to the EPS-OPS faction, but also to the principal opposition leader, MK Stalin of the DMK, who can now expect a real fight for power.
While Sasikala’s nephew TTV Dhinakaran, who had floated the Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam in the interim, asserting that she was still the general secretary of the party (she has contested her removal from the post in court), it is clear that the duo plan to try and wrest control of the party away from EPS, who has already been declared as the AIADMK’s official chief ministerial candidate.
With actor Rajinikanth’s decision to refrain from politics, the field has been thrown wide open. The BJP, which is desperate to gain a foothold in Tamil Nadu, has also reportedly been in back-channel talks with Dhinakaran, which may also queer the pitch for the ruling AIADMK faction. Whichever way the alliances change, one thing is however clear – the taint of corruption will not be a deterrent for Sasikala. After all, both Jayalalithaa and arch-rival M Karunanidhi had won after being dismissed on corruption charges.