J Jayalalithaa's aide and outlying contender to the AIADMK legacy VK Sasikala struck a conciliatory note on Wednesday, urging all followers of the late icon to unite and join forces against the common enemy, the DMK, in the forthcoming Assembly elections.
Sasikala made a very brief but pointed speech after paying floral tributes to Jayalalithaa on her birth anniversary at the former's T Nagar residence in Chennai.
"Amma’s followers should unite and fight for victory. In the forthcoming elections, our target is victory. Very soon I will meet cadre and the public," Sasikala said.
This move by Sasikala is expected to put the Edappadi Palaniswami-O Panneerselvam combine on the back foot as Sasikala is setting a target much higher and valorous than immediate and personal political ends: the defeat of the DMK. At the same time, her word that she would meet the cadre and public would mean she is no mood to play second fiddle to Palaniswami and Panneerselvam.
It remains to be seen how the AIADMK would react to such a complex approach by Sasikala.
Wary of the Sasikala factor, the AIADMK on Monday asked its cadres to take a pledge, in the name of J Jayalalithaa on the former chief minister's birth anniversary by lighting a lamp in their houses, to guard the party.
While the "test" of Assembly polls is round the corner in about two months, enemies and betrayers have joined hands to defeat the AIADMK, top party leaders O Panneerselvam and K Palaniswami said in a letter to cadres.
Vowing to retain power for the second time in a row, they said such 'anti-people' forces must be taught a lesson again by vanquishing them through hardwork, unity and allegiance to the party. Palaniswami, co-coordinator and Chief Minister and Panneerselvam, coordinator and Deputy Chief Minister, however, did not explicitly name anyone.
Sasikala is late AIADMK supremo Jayalalithaa's confidante and she returned to Chennai recently after serving a four year prison sentence in Bengaluru following conviction in an assets case.
A civil suit by Sasikala and Dhinakaran, who were ousted from the party in 2017, is likely to come up in a court here next month challenging decisions of the present leadership of the AIADMK. The AIADMK-led state government recently confiscated properties belonging to Sasikala's relatives in the disproportionate assets case.
The main opposition DMK, which is out of power for almost ten years is leaving no stone unturned to win polls likely in April. The AIADMK, which snatched the reins of power in 2011 from archrival DMK, emerged victorious again in 2016 under Jayalalithaa's leadership.