The return of Sasikala: What does she have in store for the AIADMK?

Tamil Nadu’s political terrain is set to see a churn with the AIADMK coping to adjust with the return of V K Sasikala.

Ousted AIADMK leader V K Sasikala, who once upon a time was much revered by party workers owing to her proximity with the former Chief Minister and party supremo late J Jayalalithaa, seems to have been waiting for the opportune moment to take back all that she had lost in the political firmament of Tamil Nadu.

Post-release from prison, her visit to mentor and leader Jayalalithaa’s memorial at the Marina Beach in Chennai, last Saturday, needs to be seen as a step forward in her quest to retrieve the top position in the party that has been relegated to the Opposition benches in the Tamil Nadu State Assembly.

Sasikala not only visited the Jayalalithaa Memorial after her release from prison. She addressed supporters too, with the promise that she would now “set the party right”. That could mean that the days of lying low are over for the lady who once wielded power but had to remain in Jayalalithaa’s shadow.

Not all in the AIADMK glad about the return of Sasikala

But then the current crop of leaders in the AIADMK is not a happy lot. As usual, they are confused. Post-demise of Jayalalithaa, leaders had started coming out in the open and it took months together to decide on who would lead the party in the Thalaivi’s absence.  Soon after Sasikala was indicted in the disproportionate wealth case and ordered to be imprisoned, her loyalists O Paneerselvam and Edappadi Palaniswami were out to take over the responsibility of leading the party, of course with a fair amount of bickering among themselves.

Sasikala’s imprisonment was followed closely by her ouster from the post of AIADMK’s interim general secretary. This was back in 2017. Her one-time loyalists turned against her and declared that she wasn’t part of the AIADMK anymore.

Cut to the present day, and Sasikala has returned. The promise of ‘setting the party right’ means so much. Asserting her position and grabbing back the position she once held would be her priorities. She would need her loyal cadres to stand by her, and going by her nature, it needs to be believed that she would go to any extent to make her dreams come true.

The fact that the current leaders wouldn’t sit idle against such a threat is anybody’s guess.  They aren’t prepared to. The leaders have started their attack using words loaded with sarcasm.

But then, Sasikala, a cunning player on the political terrain, has advised supporters not to respond or retaliate. Instead, she has begun reaching out to the sulking leaders who were thrown out from the AIADMK in the past like she was years ago.

Sasikala hopes to be back and ‘set the party right’

It is no secret that some of the AIADMK leaders would like to see Sasikala back in command. But there are also many who loathe her. And, that would add to the rift already existing within the party. With Sasikala now planning to travel to southern Tamil Nadu in a bid to muster support, it would make things tougher for the people who never wanted her to take back power in the party. It is expected that Sasikala would address AIADMK cadres in Tirunelveli and Ramanathapuram this month-end, and the response would further help her plan her future action.

It remains to be seen whether Sasikala will be able to take back all she had lost before her arrest. AIADMK, in fact, doesn’t have an able leader who has the capability to stand up to the rejuvenated DMK under M K Stalin, the current Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu. It may not be right to place Sasikala on that high pedestal, though.

However, she would want to regain her lost clout. How the AIADMK cadres would respond to it would be exciting to watch from the sidelines. If she succeeds in garnering widespread support from the ground-level workers and a few top bigwigs in the party, she could have a say on how the party needs to be steered. Or, how to “set the party right”, as she herself puts it.

Feature Image: PTI
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Sanjeev Ramachandran

A journalist with 23 years of experience, Sanjeev has worked with reputed media houses such as Business Standard, The New Indian Express, MSN India, PanAsiaBiz. Sanjeev can be reached at [email protected]
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