The political spectrum in Tamil Nadu may see a significant transition with the Sasikala factor as the close confidante of former Chief Minister late J Jayalalithaa was released from the Bengaluru prison on Wednesday. Though her return to politics is uncertain, her release will have an impact in the electorates’ mood towards the ruling AIADMK ahead of the Tamil Nadu assembly elections due this year.
Sasikala was freed from the Parappana Agrahara central jail after close to four years of imprisonment. She was convicted in a disproportionate assets case on February 14, 2017 and will be released after paying a Rs 10-crore fine, failing which her imprisonment would have been extended by 13 more months.
In the disproportionate assets case, Jayalalithaa was the first accused.
Sasikala, who hails from Mannargudi near Thanjavur, wields a sizeable influence among the Thevar community, which dominates in the AIADMK. With superstar Rajinikant’s sudden decision to withdraw from entering electoral politics with his new party, Sasikala’s renewed presence in the Tamil Nadu politics may be the game-changer.
The central leadership of the BJP, an ally of the ruling AIADMK, has already begun chalking out a poll plan, banking on Sasikala’s help. However, the AIADMK leadership is mute on whether to accept Sasikala back into the party.
Sasikala, who was introduced to politics by Jayalalithaa in 1984 and the two were thick since, was dismissed by political experts after chief minister Edappdy K Palaniswami and his deputy O Panneerselvam took over the party and ran the government almost stably for the past four years after Jayalalithaa’s death.
Recently, BJP state president L Ganesan released a statement on Friday urging media not to sensationalise her health condition. “Everyone knows the friendship and loyalty between Jayalalalithaa and Sasikala are incomparable,” the BJP leader said. “If anyone betrayed the AIADMK and its two leaves symbol, it would amount to an indirect betrayal of Jayalalithaa. Sasikala would be aware of it too. I wonder how people can assume she will do that (betrayal). So, let’s not be in a hurry to comment about her. Let us believe that good thing will happen,” he said in the press release.
Sasikala and Jayalalithaa became close after the former’s husband Natarajan’s skills in public relations helped the latter. The couple moved to Jayalalithaa’s residence in the late 1980s. Following MGR’s death, it was Sasikala’s close relatives who guarded Jayalalithaa after she faced too many challenges in political life. It was Natarajan who played the role of a kingmaker.