TN Elections 2021: Sasikala’s political exit ‘a strategic retreat’

Poornima Joshi New Delhi | Updated on March 04, 2021

V.K.Sasikala, a close confidante of late J Jayalalithaa, picture taken on February 24, 2021   -  The Hindu

Sasikala may have strategically retreated to wait for her turn after the election results are out and the real strength of her rivals, EPS and OPS, is known

AIADMK is relieved for the moment but V. K. Sasikala may have tactically stepped aside to step in later. The light and sound show in Tamil Nadu elections has just begun with former Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa’s close aide suddenly switching off and appealing to all AIADMK cadre to work unitedly to defeat the “evil force DMK”.

The two-page letter that first flashed on Jaya TV on Wednesday night announces her retreat but simultaneously installs her as the strongest claimant for Jayalalithaa’s legacy: “As Amma used to say, defeating the evil force DMK should be the main aim of all obedient cadre of Amma’s party.”

This is temporary relief to the AIADMK which presently lacks any charismatic leader and has been dreading Sasikala’s campaign in the aide of her powerful nephew, TTV Dhinakaran, who looks to expand over 4 per cent vote share his newly-formed Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam (AMMK) managed to corner in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

Sasikala blazed a trail since her release from prison in January; flower-smothered procession of 200 vehicles and party cadre following her into Tamil Nadu from Karnataka border resonated with slogans hailing “Chinnamma”, straining the already uneasy truce between Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami and his Deputy O. Paneerselvam.

Also read: Sasikala decides to quit politics ahead of Tamil Nadu polls

Sasikala, quoting MGR’s favourite song “Anbukku naan adimai, Tamil panbukku nan adimai”, with her “Chinnamma” title and rootedness among the Thevars, is a strong presence in South Tamil Nadu. She hails from Kallar community, one of the three sub-castes of the Thevars, and her emergence since January has troubled both the AIADMK and, in association, the BJP.

But her latest move releases this tension and revives the BJP’s latent moves to push all factions of the AIADMK together. The stitching together of the ruling grand alliance has thus far included AIADMK, BJP, PMK and endeavours to club Vijayakanth’s DMDK. In Sasikala’s absence, Dhinakaran’s AMMK could be another entrant in this field. The BJP will certainly strain to get everyone together to ensure that there is no splitting of votes.

For the time being, it is a good strategy for Sasikala to push for seats for Dhinakaran and supporters within the ruling grand alliance. To wait and watch for the election results while convalescing after Covid-19 and a long jail sentence and prevent the spectre of investigating agencies, State and more significantly Central agencies, from hounding her in other corruption cases is a good barter for the temporary relief her withdrawal affords to the AIADMK-BJP combine. They are cautious in commenting on her even when they claim victory at the hustings.

Also read: Single phase polls for TN, Kerala and Puducherry on April 6

“AIADMK will sweep the elections. We have given 10.5 per cent internal reservation to the Vanniakula Kashatrya community in education and public employment. Our performance during the Covid-19 period has been stellar. So far as she (Sasikala) and her resignation is concerned, I have absolutely no comment to offer,” said A. Navaneethakrishnan, AIADMK’s leader in the Rajya Sabha.

The matter is of vicarious interest to the opposition DMK and their allies which are presently stitching up what they believe is a “winning combination” in Tamil Nadu. The DMK has tied up with the Congress, Left parties, Vaiko’s MDMK and the Viduthalai Chiruthaigai Katchi and the seat-sharing talks are nearing completion. According to D. Raja of the CPI, Sasikala’s withdrawal only marginally helps the AIADMK which is “facing a rout” in Tamil Nadu.

“She may want to wait for the outcome of the elections. This is not a good time for her to enter the murky election campaign. I suspect she will barter her withdrawal to push for seats for her supporters in the election. It is better to stake her claim once OPS and EPS are out of the office,” D. Raja told BusinessLine.

So Sasikala has stooped and many believe she has done it to conquer later.

Published on March 04, 2021

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