It’s Sasikala vs EPS and OPS in fight for Amma’s legacy

It’s Sasikala vs EPS and OPS in fight for Amma’s legacy

Both EPS and OPS, who had worked under Sasikala, are now opposed to her entry into the AIADMK

Expelled AIADMK leader VK Sasikala pays floral tribute to former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister late J Jayalalithaa on her birth anniversary, at her residence in Chennai. Credit: PTI.

The battle for late Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa’s legacy is heating up between her former aide and ousted party leader V K Sasikala and the current AIADMK dispensation, notably CM Edappadi K Palaniswami and his Deputy O Panneerselvam.

Against the backdrop of the upcoming assembly elections, the AIADMK matriarch’s name, which still has a lot of clout in the state, has taken centre stage again and Sasikala’s release after a four-year term in a disproportionate assets case has made matters murky.

Sasikala has been sending across strong messages, signalling her re-entry into the political scene ever since she set foot outside Bengaluru’s Parappana Agrahara prison in late January.

Read | Jayalalithaa's true loyalists should unite to bring back AIADMK govt: Sasikala

After Jayalalithaa's death in December 2016, Sasikala was elected the AIADMK's interim general secretary and as its legislature party leader in February 2017. However, with the Supreme court restoring her conviction in the assets case, she had chosen her then loyalist K Palaniswami to be the chief minister before proceeding to Bengaluru to serve the sentence. However, much water has flown under the bridge since then. People whom Sasikala had carefully placed in higher positions are now against her and her nephew T T V Dhinakaran.

Both EPS and OPS, who had worked under Sasikala not just when Jayalalithaa was alive but even after her death, are now opposed to her entry into the AIADMK.

“There is no chance. She is not even a member of the AIADMK,” Palaniswami had said in response to a question on the possibility of Sasikala joining the party before her release. The CM was hand-picked by Sasikala as the AIADMK Legislature Party leader moments after the Supreme Court upheld a 2014 trial court order sentencing her to four years in prison. To another question on the AIADMK's stand vis-a-vis Sasikala, Palaniswami had reiterated that he was “100 per cent” sure that his former boss would not be accommodated again.

Flagging off the fight

The latest duel started after Sasikala's car sported an AIADMK flag when she was discharged from Bengaluru's Victoria Hospital and also on her way back home from Karnataka. The AIADMK reacted by filing a complaint against her for “illegally” using the party flag on her car. A war of words broke out between the AIADMK and the AMMK, a party led by Sasikala's nephew Dhinakaran, with the former maintaining that she was not even a party member and had no right to use the flag and the latter claiming that she was the AIADMK general secretary.

Even before entering Chennai, Sasikala paid tribute to her ‘Akka’ on her return to the state in Krishnagiri district and called for unity to jointly defeat the "common foe" while invoking Jayalalithaa’s legacy.

Birth anniversary brouhaha

More recently, Sasikala staked a claim to Amma's legacy by timing her first public appearance after reaching Chennai with Jayalalithaa’s birth anniversary on February 24 and paying her a floral tribute.

“True loyalists of Amma (Jayalalithaa) should unite and face the Tamil Nadu Assembly elections. Our goal, as Amma said, is to ensure that the AIADMK rules the state for 100 years. Keeping this in mind, we should work towards bringing back the government to power. I will extend my support,” Sasikala, who was flanked by her nephew and AMMK leader T T V Dhinakaran, said on the occasion.

Chief Minister K Palaniswami and Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam-led AIADMK, on their part, took a pledge to guard the people and party in Amma's path and cut a massive 73-kg cake at the party headquarters. Palaniswami, marking the commencement of observance of Jayalalithaa's birth anniversary as state event from this year, garlanded her statue and unveiled a museum and a knowledge park in the Phoenix-themed memorial of Jayalalithaa at the Marina beach.

The AIADMK also asked its cadre to take a pledge in the name of J Jayalalithaa to guard the party by lighting a lamp in their houses.

Sasikala strikes back

67-year-old Sasikala has also revived a case filed in 2017 challenging the AIADMK general council's decision of removing her as interim general secretary of the party.

In 2017, the AIADMK had suffered a split with O Panneerselvam, now deputy chief minister, and Palaniswami heading two factions, but they later merged the groups and the general council of the combined party removed Sasikala from general secretary post and expelled Dhinakaran from the party in in September, 2017.

Get a round-up of the day's top stories in your inbox

Check out all newsletters

Get a round-up of the day's top stories in your inbox