Sasikala may be out before Tamil Nadu polls, if conditions met
Tamil Nadu, which is due to hold assembly elections in the first quarter of next year, may be headed for a change in its political scenario with V K Sasikala Natarajan, a close associate of late chief minister J Jayalalithaa, likely to walk out of prison before the polls.
Sasikala is currently serving a four-year prison term in Bengaluru’s Parapanna Agrahara after being convicted of possessing assets disproportionate to her income by the Supreme Court in February 2017. Jayalalithaa, who died in December 2016, was also convicted but in her case the ruling was infructuous.
According to a reply furnished by the office of the chief superintendent of Parapanna Agrahara to a question posed under the Right To Information Act, the probable date of Sasikala’s release is January 27, 2021 if she pays the court-ordered fine of ₹10 crore. In the event that she fails to pay the fine, she is likely to be released on February 27, 2022.
What is interesting is that in the RTI response by R Latha, the public information officer of the prison, Sasikala maybe released even earlier than 27 January 2021 if she utilises her parole facility. Sasikala had entered the prison on February 15, 2015; she had served 35 days in prison in 1997 and 2004 as well.
According to Sasikala’s lawyer Raja Sendur Pandian, Sasikala is eligible to be released as early as by end of this month although this could not be independently confirmed by HT with prison authorities.
Pandian claims that Sasikala is entitled to the “ordinary remission” given to all prisoners which would enable her to walk out of prison as early as by the end of September. He also said arrangements had already been made to pay the ₹10 crore fine to facilitate Sasikala’s early release.
Her reentry into Tamil Nadu’s political landscape is likely to have a significant impact in the state where she was elected as general secretary of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) and the leader of its legislature party; she was all set to be sworn in as chief minister before the law closed in on her.
Then Tamil Nadu governor Ch Vidyasagar Rao waited for the Supreme Court to deliver its judgement in the disproportionate assets case against Jayalalithaa and Sasikala. Both of them, along with two others, were found guilty, quashing her hopes of becoming the CM.
After Sasikala’s arrest, Edappadi Palanswami, then seen as Sasikala’s proxy and a key lieutenant of hers, was elected as leader of the legislature party, and became the CM. After Palanswami fell out with Sasikala’s nephew, TTV Dhinakaran, she was expelled from the AIADMK and removed from the general secretary’s post. Dhinakaran formed a new party, Amma Makkal Munnettra Kazagam ( AMMK), which has not had much electoral success.
“If she can project herself as the wronged woman who had to go to jail to defend the honour of thalaivi Jayalalithaa, then she might still emerge as a significant force. Specially as the Palanswami and the O.Panneerselvam (deputy CM) factions are yet to fully reconcile with each other. Also she belongs to the powerful Thevar community, which could also be a factor in her favour.”
AIADMK is yet to react officially on the likely early release of Sasikala. In the past, fisheries minister D Jayakumar dismissed the possibility of readmitting her and ruled out the possibility of her re-entry into the state’s political scene having any impact on the party’s fortunes.