Sasikala returns to TN after four years; AIADMK says she has no link with party

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(Eds:Combining related stories) Chennai/Bengaluru, Feb 8 (PTI) Expelled AIADMK leader V K Sasikala on Monday returned to Tamil Nadu to a grand reception, days after completing her four-year jail term in Bengaluru in a corruption case, amid indications of a confrontation with the ruling party which she once controlled.

With her return coinciding with Assembly polls, likely in another two months, political circles were abuzz with the kind of impact she could make to the ruling dispensation which reiterated she was not welcome into its fold.

However, the 65-year-old former confidante of late Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa announced she would involve herself in active politics and called for unitedly taking on a 'common foe' and ensure it does not come to the ruling saddle again.

Embarking on a near 15 hour journey road trip that may normally take not more than six hours, Sasikala's convoy had to wade through the waiting and waving supporters at many points, with chants hailing 'chinnamma' renting the air.

Sasikala crossed into Tamil Nadu at Athipalli in Krishnagiri district bordering Karnataka, around 10 am as her supporters broke into celebrations, dancing to drum beats and showering flower petals on her convoy.

She visited a couple of temples on the way home.

Invoking late AIADMK stalwarts M G Ramachandran and Jayalalithaa, she called for unity to jointly defeat the 'common foe'.

'My desire is that we must jointly work to ensure our common foe does not come to the ruling saddle again in Tamil Nadu,' she said without naming anyone.

The AIAMDK, however, reiterated Sasikala and those with her had nothing to do with the party and that it was illegal on their part to use the party flag as she travelled in a car sporting it, for the second time in the last two weeks.

Senior AIADMK leader and Fisheries Minister D Jayakumar took exception to Sasikala using the party flag and recalled the AIADMK's police complaint against it.

'Sasikala and her aides have no link to AIADMK... it is illegal for anyone else (other than party functionaries) to use the flag,' he told reporters at Chennai.

When asked if the ruling camp was 'nervous' about Sasikala's return, Jayakumar said 'there is no need for us to panic.' It was Dhinakaran who will be nervous as Sasikala may seek explanation from him on many issues, he added.

Clad in a green colour saree, the favourite hue of Jayalalithaa, and wearing a face mask, Sasikala travelled in a car that sported the AIADMK flag over the bonnet, disregarding the warning by the ruling party against its use by non-members.

On the ruling AIADMK Ministers petitioning the police against her use of flag in her car,she said it showed their apprehension.

Responding to media queries about supporters' demand to 'wrest control of the AIADMK,' she said 'I will meet you all soon. Will speak in detail then.' 'Sure, for party workers,' was her response when scribes asked if she would engage in active politics, months ahead of the scheduled Assembly polls in the state.

In a show of grandeur, she was offered a massive garland made of flowers and fruits and weighing an estimated 500kg at Krishnagiri. A crane was used to carry the garland.

Earlier, she underwent her sentence in the Rs 66.65 crore disproportionate assets case at the Parapana Agrahara central prison in Bengaluru since February, 2017 and was set free on January 27.

However, she remained at the Government Victoria Hospital, where she had been admitted after testing positive for COVID-19 while under judicial custody.

She was discharged from the hospital on January 31 after which she stayed at a resort, about 35 km from Bengaluru.

On Monday morning, she left the resort, accompanied by T T V Dhinakaran, also the general secretary of Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam, in a convoy of around 200 vehicles as her supporters raised slogans hailing her.

After Jayalalithaa's death in December 2016, Sasikala was elected the AIADMK's interim general secretary and as its legislature party leader in February 2017, paving the way for her elevation as chief minister.

However, with the Supreme court restoring her conviction in the assets case awarded by a lower court, she chose her then loyalist K Palaniswami to be the chief minister before proceeding to Bengaluru for serving the sentence.

The AIADMK suffered a split with O Panneerselvam, now deputy chief minister, and Palaniswami heading two factions, but they later merged the groups and the general council of the combined party expelled Sasikala in September, 2017 along with Dhinakaran and others. PTI SA GMS VS BN ADMINISTRATOR VS BN ADMINISTRATOR