TNM spoke to sources close to VK Sasikala including her nephew and AMMK chief TTV Dhinakaran.

Sasikala wearing an orange saree and a white mask prays to a picture of J Jayalalithaa
news 2021 Tamil Nadu Assembly Elections Thursday, March 04, 2021 - 12:58

For days, political reporters and production teams at Jaya TV had been gearing up to cover VK Sasikala’s election campaign. Since her release from prison, the channel, once a mouthpiece for the AIADMK, now run by Sasikala’s family, had been re-energised. They said that two SUVs, similar to the one former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa used, were being readied by Sasikala’s team for her state tour. However, on Wednesday night, Jaya TV staff were caught by surprise when they received a press statement from Sasikala’s office with instructions to air the two-page letter. What no one expected were the last two lines, a dramatic announcement by Sasikala in which she said, “I have decided to step aside from politics and I am praying hard to my sister, Puratchi Thalaivi, whom I consider as a god and every god I know to ensure that the golden rule of Amma prevails.”

It was on February 9, barely a month ago that Sasikala made her return to Chennai from Bengaluru, where she had spent four years in jail, in a massive 23-hour roadshow. She had chosen to defy the party that had removed her from the post of General Secretary by travelling in a car bearing the AIADMK flag. It was a clear message to her rivals in the ruling party that she would not lie low after being overthrown. 

Stopping to greet her supporters enroute to Chennai, she announced, “The party has undergone a lot of difficulties and in all those times we should take a resolution to submit our success at the feet of Jayalalithaa. No matter how many challenges we face, we will have to face them with the blessing of Jayalalithaa.” 

Days after her return, she approached a Chennai court, challenging her removal as the AIADMK General Secretary. This was a Sasikala who was ready to take the political plunge, and to fight those who had ousted her. So what changed in less than a month?

According to her nephew and AMMK chief TTV Dhinakaran, Sasikala was disappointed by the attitude of AIADMK party leaders who she has worked closely with for many years. “She was upset at their statements. It is one thing that they dismissed her while she was in jail, but even after she came out, they were unwilling to budge and accept her. They betrayed her,” he told TNM. AIADMK’s top brass beginning with Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami, the man she handpicked to lead the government, had vehemently opposed her return to the party. 

TTV Dhinakaran says Sasikala has been thinking of making such an announcement for two or three days now. “I met her on Wednesday night and tried to dissuade her, but she had made up her mind,” he says.

A source who has closely worked with Sasikala for many years told TNM that she had consulted other close family members before taking the decision and that it wasn’t an emotional one. “She has thought this out. Tomorrow she should not be blamed for AIADMK’s loss by splitting votes. Moreover, we can’t understand why EPS is behaving like this. We have been told that even the BJP told him that it was better to have a truce with her, however EPS is dead against it,” the source said, referring to the BJP asking AIADMK to accommodate Sasikala ahead of the polls.

A journalist who is also closely associated with her team told TNM that this seems to be an individual decision made by Sasikala.

With Sasikala deciding to stay away from politics, at least for now, many believe that this will pave the way for AMMK to join AIADMK alliance, since Sasikala who was convicted on corruption charges was cited as the main roadblock. However, TTV Dinakaran disagrees. “She has never interfered with AMMK. There are no talks with anyone now,” he says.

A BJP leader who is part of the election committee told TNM that it is now up to the AIADMK to decide whether they want to ink a deal with the AMMK and welcome TTV Dhinakaran back into the fold. 

Sasikala may have stepped aside for now, however, if the AIADMK does not manage to win the April 6 elections, she can always make a bid for the party then. Many of those who dismiss her today may even queue up to make 'Chinnamma' their leader.

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