In 2016, after the demise of AIADMK matriarch J Jayalalithaa, all the senior leaders of the party lined up to request ‘Chinnamma’ Sasikala to take up the leadership post. Five years later, a lot has changed and, it seems, Sasikala had no takers in the AIADMK. No one in the party clamoured for her return after her release from jail.
Sasikala’s dramatic declaration that she is quitting politics has come at a crucial moment, when the AIADMK seems to be dragging its feet on seat-sharing talks with the BJP, the DMDK and the TMC. Ego clashes is said to be behind the delay with the DMDK and TMC. One of the major reasons for the AIADMK not finalising seats with the BJP was allegedly the pressure on the EPS faction to take Sasikala back into the party.
But, the EPS faction had been reluctant to give into this demand. Meanwhile, on March 2, AMMK chief TTV Dhinakaran declared that he is ready to join hands with AIADMK provided he is projected as the chief ministerial candidate. After he issued the statement, there were income-tax raids at the business premises of AMMK party men at Madurai.
Dhinakaran is also allegedly in talks with the Congress and Kamal Haasan’s Makkal Needhi Maiam. In fact, it is widely reported that to facilitate a partnership between the AMMK and the MNM, Sarathkumar, the chief of AISMK took the initiative to meet Sasikala on February 24.
At one point, the BJP did not want the AIADMK to take back Sasikala into the party fold. But, there is a theory put forward by political observers that the BJP wanted her in the AIADMK because it ostensibly had an hidden agenda to weaken the EPS faction and stir up internal strife in the party.
Interestingly, after Sasikala’s release from prison and before her return from Bengaluru to Chennai, the AIADMK deputy coordinator KP Munusamy had announced that there are chances Dhinakaran may be taken back into the party if he tendered an apology. Now, with Sasikala’s voluntary exit from politics, it is believed that the AIADMK and AMMK’s merger may become easier.
With Sasikala out of the game, the BJP, however, has lost its main trump card and may agree to the number of seats the AIADMK allots it. Similarly, the DMDK and the TMC may follow suit.
The BJP, however, can still use a few cards to demand more. On March 15, Sasikala’s case challenging her removal as party general secretary will come up for hearing. The BJP can use the case to bring a stay on the AIADMK from using the ‘two leaves’ symbol. If that happens, it would be a severe blow to the AIADMK.
As the parleys over seats continue at a frenetic pace among parties for the upcoming Assembly elections, the Congress, which hitherto maintained that it had unofficially initiated talks with AMMK, may reconsider the option under the new circumstances and remain with the DMK. And, it, too, may take whatever seats are given to it. Meanwhile, the chances of the MNM teaming up with the AMMK are doubtful, considering that Kamal Haasan has now been projected as the chief ministerial candidate by his party.
Small political outfits, such as NTK have now realised that without Sasikala, the AMMK has no value. And, Seeman may, therefore, head to the MNM-led third front.
History sometimes does not have a chance to repeat itself. In 1987, shortly after the death of MGR, Jayalalithaa decided to leave politics once and for all. But, she was prevented at that time by M Natarajan, Sasikala’s husband. Unfortunately, Natarajan is not around to stop Sasikala from leaving politics.
Sources close to Sasikala said she is reluctant to make a comeback in politics and prefers to spend the rest of her life in her native Mannargudi in Tiruvarur district. But, it is Dhinakaran, who is pushing Jayalalithaa’s former aide to re-enter politics. Sasikala, however, has voluntarily walked away from the hurly-burly world of politics.