Sasikala discharged from hospital, hints at political battle with AIADMK

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(Eds: Add quote, details, background) Bengaluru, Jan 31 (PTI) Expelled AIADMK leader V K Sasikala was discharged from a hospital here on Sunday after recovering from COVID-19, days after she was set free by the prison officials on completion of her jail term in a corruption case, authorities said.

Sending a strong signal, Sasikala, a close aide of late Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa, travelled in a car that sported the AIADMK flag from the hospital, with the ruling party questioning the propriety of her action when she had been ousted from the party.

The AIADMK has time and again made it clear that the 66- year old Sasikala would not be taken back and her release would not have any impact on the party, which is keen retain power in the assembly elections, expected in April-May.

It has already declared incumbent K Palaniswami as the chief ministerial candidate for the polls.

Sasikala was expelled from the party in September, 2017 along with her nephew TTV Dhinakaran and others by the general council of the combined AIADMK under the leadership of Palaniswami and his deputy O Panneerselvam after the two merged their respective factions.

On Sunday, the AIADMK in its twitter handle said the use of its flag by Sasikala was against the law and quoted senior party leader D Jayakumar. 'How Sasikala, who is not even a party member could use the party flag? This is against the law,' Jayakumar, who is also the Fisheries Minister, said.

Defending Sasikala, Dhinakaran, who is the general secretary of Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam floated by him in March, 2018 as an arrangement to retrieve the AIADMK, claimed 'she (his aunt) is the general secretary of the AIADMK.' Cases relating to her so-called 'expulsion' and connected matters were pending before the court in Tamil Nadu, he told reporters, adding 'I have already told you that legal fight will continue (to retrieve the AIADMK).' The very purpose of floating the AMMK was to retrieve the AIADMK in a democratic way and 'Thiyaga Thalaivi Chinnamma' (leader of sacrifices, junior 'Amma') would continue legal efforts to win back the party, he said.

Dhinakaran said as per doctors' advice she would stay back here and take rest for a week before returning to Chennai.

Political analyst Sumanth Raman tweeted '#Sasikala coming out of hospital in a car with an AIADMK flag on it seems to be a clear signal of her intentions. Game on.' Soon after she was discharged, Sasikala reached a resort near the scenic Nandi Hill at Devanahalli in North Bengaluru.

Sasikala was admitted to the Victoria Hospital after she tested positive for COVID-19 recently while under judicial custody.

Prison authorities here had formally released her on January 27 after she completed the four-year jail term in a Rs 66 crore disproportionate assets case.

On the advice of doctors, she remained in the hospital and was discharged on Sunday after her latest test reports came negative for COVID-19, hospital officials said.

A huge crowd of her supporters greeted Sasikala as she came out of the hospital.

More than 300 police personnel were deployed in the area to ensure law and order, police said.

Sambasivan, one of her supporters from Hosur in the border district of Krishnagiri in Tamil Nadu, told PTI that this was like a festival for him.

Sasikala's release comes ahead of the assembly elections in Tamil Nadu and the course of action taken by her would be keenly watched.

The Supreme Court sentenced her to four year simple imprisonment on February 14, 2017 at a time when she was set to take over as the Chief Minister subsequent to her election as the AIADMK legislature party leader.

After the sentence that also barred her from contesting elections for six years after completion of the term, she chose Palaniswami to be the chief minister.

Before coming here to serve the sentence, Sasikala had made a dramatic vow at the 'samadhi' of Jayalalithaa, though she did not openly declare what it was all about. PTI GMS VGN VS VS