The shutters have been pulled down on VK Sasikala’s political career.
The two-bench Supreme Court verdict convicted the AIADMK general secretary for four years in jail. The verdict also bars Sasikala from contesting polls for 10 years.
Until a week back she was all set to become the chief minister of Tamil Nadu and almost everything seemed to work in her favour: She had the backing of the MLAs, the chief minister stepped down and the preparations for her swearing-in had begun.
But then O Panneerselvam decided to put his foot down and 40 minutes of meditation changed the succession script. With a little help from the governor, a week-long stalemate has come to an end. Such are the uncertainties of politics.
And it is these uncertainties that will be playing out in Tamil Nadu in the days to come.
The conviction of Sasikala has opened the floodgates of political ambition not only in the ruling AIADMK, but also among Opposition parties.
The AIADMK, after the demise of five-time CM Jayalalithaa, was yet to stabilise before the battle between Sasikala and Panneerselvam broke out. This meant that the political loyalties within the party were split before they could be consolidated—this makes it hard for Panneerselvam (OPS) to be sure that Sasikala’s supporters would naturally turn towards him.
Now that Sasikala is no more in the political equation, OPS might heave a sigh in relief — but that would be premature. He might have won the battle against Sasikala, but he does not have the party leaders under him.
The celebrations outside his residence cannot paper over the rifts created in the party. It is yet to be seen how OPS will treat party leaders who were in the Sasikala camp. He cannot abandon them if he wants to rule the state.
He doesn’t have the required number of MLAs to stake claim to become the CM. The DMK, which was initially backing OPS, has got cold feet now, presumably after seeing the groundswell of support he was receiving. OPS could ask the DMK for outside support, but that would come at a huge price for both him and the party headed by MK Stalin.
Rumours, all this while, have been that OPS had a tacit understanding with the DMK, and even with the BJP-led Centre—the latter being more harmful for OPS’ political future.
Panneerselvam started this battle as the underdog, as he had nothing to lose after resigning as CM. But today, when he stands victorious having won the battle against Sasikala, he has inherited a faction-ridden party.
And for OPS, the troubles are far from over.