Tamil Nadu is witnessing a gladiatorial battle between O Pannerselvam, who recently tendered his resignation as the CM of Tamil Nadu, and VK Sasikala, the CM-in-waiting. Even as accusations against Sasikala fly thick and fast, and as she tries to hold her ground with most AIADMK MLAs on her side, Sasikala’s business interests and their conflict with her political ambitions have grabbed attention yet again.
Documents reviewed by The News Minute, recently reported on by NDTV and previously brought to attention by several other activists groups and political parties, reveal that not only does Sasikala and her family hold an office of profit in multiple private companies, but also that she benefits directly from the multi-thousand-crore rupee liquor business in the state, entirely controlled and run by the government.
Earlier, there were doubts over whether Sasikala directly benefitted from the liquor sales of Midas Golden, but now a clear link has emerged.
In July 2014, Hot Wheels Engineering Pvt Ltd, a company in which VK Sasikala and her niece Ilavarasi (both co-accused in the Jayaalithaa DA case) were members of the board, changed its name to Jazz Cinemas Pvt Ltd, and submitted to the government that the company would now make films.
It was later reported by The Hindu that Jazz Cinemas had bought over the lucrative multiplex Luxe from Sathyam Cinemas, sparking rumours on why Sathyam would sell such an expensive, profitable property to the Sasikala family.
Interestingly, at least as late as January 2015, Sasikala was a majority shareholder in Jazz Cinemas.
Now, as per the records filed by Midas Golden Distilleries Pvt Ltd, Jazz is a majority shareholder in the company.
This clearly establishes that VK Sasikala, unless she has given up her shares very recently, continues to benefit from Midas Golden distilleries, and thereby the state government's liquor monopoly.
And how much does she make every year? Several hundred crore rupees, at least.
According to the latest financial report submitted by Midas Golden, the turnover in the financial year 2015-16 was more than Rs. 2770 crore, all from the government.
Both legally and ethically, Sasikala cannot be a part of any for-profit entity which benefits from the government. But even if Sasikala resigns and gives up her shares, it is highly likely that her own family members will continue to operate and benefit from these companies. If she takes over as the CM, questions of crony capitalism could be raised again.