Even as the AIADMK is training its guns on estranged former interim general secretary of the party, V.K. Sasikala, its alliance partner BJP is adopting a wait and watch approach in this battle.
Sasikala reached Chennai in a cavalcade of 1,000 cars from Bengaluru following her release from the Bangalore Central prison after serving a four-year jail term in the disproportionate assets case. She was in the process of extensively campaigning in the 2021 Tamil Nadu assembly elections for the Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam (AMMK), a political outfit floated by her nephew TTV Dhinakaran and mainly focusing on her caste, the Thevar community, which has a strong presence in south Tamil Nadu.
Political observers are of the opinion that by pitching in with the AMMK and winning a few seats, she was planning to barge into the AIADMK to take control of the party. However, with both Edappadi K Palaniswami (EPS) and O Panneerselvam (OPS) strongly opposing any patch-up with Sasikala and the AMMK, she announced that she was quitting active politics and would pray for the return of the ‘Golden Rule of Amma (Jayalalithaa)’ in Tamil Nadu. That statement was taken with a pinch of salt by political leaders, analysts and journalists.
M.K. Manoj, a former journalist with a leading Tamil daily in Chennai, said, “Sasikala was in the process of coming back to the centrestage of Tamil Nadu politics, an arena which she dominated for several years during the Jaya regime. Unfortunately, she failed to read the writing on the wall that she was persona non grata for the AIADMK and didn’t have a place in the party.”
He said that both EPS and OPS had made good inroads among the party cadres and middle level functionaries while she was in jail. With the party in power, many of the small demands of the cadres were met by these two leaders and their party colleagues, effectively creating a new support base in the party.
“Sasikala announced her retirement from politics after a message from the BJP central leadership and hence she had kept quiet,” said Manoj.
The central BJP leadership did not want her to spoil the party for the AIADMK by splitting votes in the ‘Thevar’ strongholds. However, the AIADMK and BJP combine lost the assembly elections.
After several days of campaigning, the AMMK had eaten into the vote bank of the AIADMK in several constituencies. Sasikala, according to people close to her, was made certain promises by the BJP in return for maintaining a low profile — so that there were no hiccups in the AIADMK-BJP election plans. But with the AMMK in the fray, Thevar votes were divided.
Days after the DMK government assumed office and reports of differences of opinion between EPS and OPS became frequent, Sasikala began renewing her old AIADMK contacts across the state. She allegedly commenced selective leaks of her phone calls to certain AIADMK leaders, in the middle and lower level as well as party cadres.
She said that she would return to the AIADMK and control the party,but the AIADMK state leadership was prepared with party district committees passing resolutions against her entry into the party. Almost all the party district committees have passed resolutions against Sasikala’s return to the party and many leaders said that the joint leadership of EPS and OPS was successfully handling the tough situations.
Meanwhile, the BJP has kept a studied silence through all these developments. BJP leaders are of the opinion that the party must not take any stand in haste and maintain a very low profile for the time being.
As the face-off between Sasikala and the present AIADMK leadership continues, the BJP leadership, according to party insiders, is adopting a policy of wait and watch — perhaps to strike at the opportune moment.