Sunday, February 28, 2021

TN poll battle heats up as Sasikala leaves hospital

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VK Sasikala on Sunday left a Bengaluru hospital in a car flaunting the flag of Tamil Nadu’s ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), which has expelled her and refused to take her back into its fold, signalling her intent to fight the party leadership as the state gears up for another high-decibel election.

Sasikala, a close associate of the late AIADMK leader and former chief minister J Jayalalithaa, appeared frail from inside the car, bowing to supporters who had gathered outside the hospital chanting Vazhga Chinnamma (long live our mother’s sister). She had been receiving treatment for over 10 days for the coronavirus disease (Covid-19).

The decision to use the AIADMK flag on the car, analysts said, was a message that she still belongs to the party and continues to stake a claims to the legacy of Jayalaithaa, who died in December 2016.

“Sasikala will remain in Bengaluru for another week,” said a person aware of the development, requesting anonymity.

Also read: Sasikala’s political rise and fall after Jayalalithaa’s death

After consulting an astrologer, the 66-year-old Sasikala decided to get discharged on Sunday just after 12.00 pm, followed by a convoy of at least 10 cars out of the hospital and moved into Prestige Golfshire, a high-end resort near Nandi Hills, about 45 kms from Bengaluru.

She is expected to complete the seven-day quarantine period in the resort and return to Tamil Nadu after February 7 in a grand homecoming of sorts, the first person cited above said.

Her return shakes up existing equations within the faction-hit AIADMK amid mixed reactions in Tamil Nadu on Sasikala’s imminent return to the state after serving out her prison term for amassing assets disproportionate to her income and treatment for Covid-19.

“She’s not even a member of the party, how can she use the flag? She has no basic rights whatsoever in the party. This is illegal,” said AIADMK spokesperson D Jayakumar. Since her release from prison, the AIADMK has expelled two of its functionaries for putting up posters welcoming Sasikala as the party’s general secretary.

Senior AIADMK leader KP Munusamy indicated that a reconciliation was possible.

Calling Sasikala’s nephew and Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam (AMMK) chief TTV Dhinakaran an opportunist who tried to break the AIADMK, he said: “If he (Dhinakaran) wants, he can submit a written apology seeking forgiveness for all his mistakes and to be accepted as a cadre. The leadership can take a call on his letter.”

Dinakaran on Sunday shrugged off the use of the flag, stating that Sasikala was still “the general secretary of the AIADMK.”

Just two months after Jayalaithaa’s demise in December 2016, the Sasikala faction of the party got into a bitter power struggle to oust O Panneerselvam as the chief minister. The Supreme Court convicted three people (Sasikala, Ilavarasi and VK Sudhakaran) in a 21-year-old disproportionate assets case on February 14, 2017.

The developments have added to the intensity of the upcoming polls in which the AIADMK is consolidating its resources to take on its bitter rival, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK).

Sasikala had handpicked Edapaddi Palaniswami for the CM’s role, over current deputy chief minister Paneerselvam, who had officiated in that role through all of Jayalalithaa’s illnesses.

Sasikala had filed a petition in the Madras high court that the general council meeting held to expel her was invalid The case is not yet listed, said her lawyer Raja Senthoor Pandian. “The case is pending in court so she’s put the flag in her car. Chinnamma will continue her legal battle. I floated AMMK democratically to reclaim the AIADMK,” Dhinakaran told reporters in Bengaluru.

“By using the flag, she is sending a message to the cadre that she belongs to the AIADMK but when the Election Commission has recognised the Palaniswami-Paneerselvam’s government and party as the true AIADMK, it’s a weak case in a civil court,” Ravindran Duraisamy, a Chennai-based political analyst, said.

The election commission in 2017 allotted the party name and its two-leaves symbol to the present regime.


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