AIADMK, Sasikala stake claim to Jaya’s legacy ahead of polls - Hindustan Times
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AIADMK, Sasikala stake claim to Jaya’s legacy ahead of polls

ByDivya Chandrababu, Hindustan Times, Chennai
Feb 25, 2021 10:22 AM IST

Expelled AIADMK leader VK Sasikala says rival parties have to unite to be victorious; ruling party rejects statements

Tamil Nadu’s ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, its expelled leader VK Sasikala and breakaway faction Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam (AMMK) staked their claims to the legacy of J Jayalalithaa on Wednesday, the 73rd birth anniversary of the late chief minister, ahead of crucial assembly elections.

Expelled AIADMK leader VK Sasikala after paying floral tribute to former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister late J Jayalalithaa on her birth anniversary, at her residence in Chennai,(PTI)
Expelled AIADMK leader VK Sasikala after paying floral tribute to former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister late J Jayalalithaa on her birth anniversary, at her residence in Chennai,(PTI)

Chief minister Edappadi Palaniswami and his deputy O Panneerselvam led the observances at the AIADMK headquarters and at Jayalalithaa’s mausoleum. Sasikala and her nephew and AMMK founder TTV Dhinakaran held a modest event at her residence.

“My intention is that all of us have to be united to be victorious and govern again,” Sasikala said after garlanding Jayalalithaa’s portrait in her first public appearance since she returned to Chennai from Bengaluru after her release from a four-year prison sentence and discharge from a hospital where she was teated for Covid-19.

Also Read: The Sasikala factor in Tamil Nadu politics

AIADMK leaders have disowned Sasikala and vowed not to take her back into the party’s fold, but she continues to identify herself as the party’s general secretary. Sasikala recalled Jayalalithaa’s statement that the AIADMK would rule Tamil Nadu for 100 years. Palaniswami had also rallied his party cadre using the same statement in January when he inaugurated a temple for Jayalalithaa and her predecessor and party founder MG Ramachandran (MGR).

Sasikala returned from Bengaluru prison to Chennai on February 8 after a roadshow that lasted 23 hours during which she sought to position herself as the true heir of Jayalalithaa, whose death in December 2016 triggered a power struggle in the AIADMK. Dhinakaran launched the AMMK in 2018 with Sasikala supporters.

Although Sasikala has never contested an election or campaigned in one, she is no political greenhorn, having lived with Jayalalithaa for three decades as her confidante.

On Wednesday, Sasikala received a stream of visitors including S Seeman, founder of the Tamil nationalist party, Naam Tamilar Katchi, and actor-politician R Sarathkumar, leader of Samathuva Makkal Katchi.

“We had been with the AIADMK for 10 years and whenever we met Jayalalithaa, she (Sasikala) was always there,” Sarathkumar told reporters.

“Though these are smaller parties, Sasikala meeting them on Jayalalithaa’s birth anniversary is a political message that she is serious about her entry,” said a commentator on Dravidian politics, Durai Karunanidhi.

Sasikala’s team formed a WhatsApp group for journalists on Wednesday and released a statement with the AIADMK flag, addressing her as the general secretary. Dhinakaran has previously said that AMMK was formed for Sasikala to reclaim AIADMK, merge rival factions and usher in Jayalalithaa’s rule.

On Wednesday, Dhinakaransaid that AMMK will make electoral decisions on Thursday. When asked if Sasikala wanted a merger of the AIADMK and AMMK, he responded, “You have to ask her.”

AIADMK, which has changed vastly since her four-year imprisonment, has rejected notions of a merger. The present dual leadership wouldn’t risk being sidelined by bringing Sasikala into its fold, political observers say.

AIADMK has also attempted to leverage public sentiment that is perceived in some quarters to have turned against Sasikala.

“Whatever she says is meant for AMMK cadre, not us,” AIADMK spokesperson D Jayakumar told reporters.

“Dhinakaran has taken an anti-Palaniswami and anti-Modi stand but wants a merger. This may not be solved anytime unless the BJP...brokers a compromise...,” said political analyst Ravindran Duraisamy.

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