In a further indication of her attempt to return to the helm of AIADMK politics, the VK Sasikala camp has released yet another audio clip, in which she is heard telling former MLA Kathirkamu that she had stopped the disqualification of 11 MLAs in 2017, including former chief minister O Panneerselvam (OPS).
Sasikala, the redoubtable former aide of J Jayalalithaa, stepped out of the Bengaluru jail in March this year on the eve of the Tamil Nadu polls, nearly three years after her conviction in a disproportionate assets case.
She is heard saying that she was told that plans are being made to expel OPS and 10 other legislators in the Tamil Nadu assembly for voting against the Edappadi K Palaniswami (EPS) government. Despite being on her way to prison, she sent word to the speaker that the MLAs should not be expelled and that the party needs to be together, claims the audio.
Immediately after her release from jail in March, Sasikala had announced she would stay away from state politics, giving a breather to the AIADMK leadership. After the humiliating defeat of the party in the assembly polls, her overtures to party leaders has led to disquiet in the party, which expelled several local leaders who were in touch with her.
In another audio, released in mid-June, Sasikala was heard speaking to an OPS supporter from Theni district, extending an olive branch to OPS. Sasikala purportedly says she would have made OPS the CM if he had not revolted.
Reacting to her supporter’s request to lead AIADMK along with OPS, Sasikala says she is getting “lots of complaints” from the cadres that a specific community was being given importance (EPS belongs to the Gounder community). “It is worrying to see AIADMK is seen like this,” she is heard saying.
Sasikala explained she had stepped aside only because EPS and OPS said that they would win the elections.
Recently, EPS and OPS, after passing a joint resolution against those who spoke with Sasikala, removed 16 members from the AIADMK. The party has further issued a warning that anyone who speaks to her will be removed from the party.
After the death of charismatic Jayalalithaa in 2016, the party’s general council had elected Sasikala as the secretary-general of the AIADMK, but she was removed from the post and expelled from the party in September 2017.
A series of audio clips have been released by her team for over a month, which project her as a leader who has put the party above her personal ambitions, while flaunting her proximity with Jayalalithaa.
After her nephew’s party AMMK drew nil in the assembly polls, these conversations also seem to be aimed at telling the party cadre that she still controls the AIADMK. Sasikala is also reaching out to the party retirees – those who were close to Jayalalithaa and MGR. The attempt could be directed at discrediting EPS and OPS and eventually tightening her grip over the party, media reports said.