Sasikala to be released from jail on Jan 27, Palaniswami rules out her return
- “There is no chance of her joining. She is not in the AIADMK party,” Palaniswami told reporters.
After meeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Delhi on Tuesday, Tamil Nadu chief minister Edapaddi Palaniswami reiterated that there is no possibility of AIADMK’s former interim general secretary VK Sasikala returning to the party after her release.
“There is no chance of her joining. She is not in the AIADMK party,” Palaniswami told reporters when asked about Sasikala’s release from prison on January 27.
Palaniswami dismissed questions of whether the BJP wanted the AIADMK to take back Sasikala. Her supporters are with her nephew TTV Dhinakaran’s party - Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam (AMMK).
“There was no discussion on her... Most of the people across Tamil Nadu have come back to AIADMK. A few are with him (Dinakaran). Amma (Jayalalithaa) had kept him aside for a long time,” Palaniswami said.
A few hours after the CM’s statement, the AIADMK government announced that on January 27, Palaniswami would inaugurate Jayalalithaa’s 79-crore memorial at Chennai’s Marina beach where she is laid to rest. Sasikala is expected to be released from Bengaluru Central Jail the same day.
Sasikala’s lawyer Raja Senthoor Pandian on Tuesday said that he received an official communication from the Bengaluru prison authorities that she will be released in the ‘morning hours’ of January 27 as she completes her jail term and has paid the required ₹10-crore fine.
Palaniswami is on a two-day visit to Delhi where he briefly held two meetings, with home minister Amit Shah on January 18 and one with PM Modi on January 19. Palaniswami said that they discussed Tamil Nadu’s developments and it was not political.
The chief minister submitted a memorandum to PM Modi seeking the centre’s intervention and funds for 12 projects and schemes.
“Palaniswami says in public that they didn’t discuss politics but he would have most likely met them to understand what is on their mind as the BJP’s state unit has no power to take any decision,” said political commentator Maalan Narayanan. “A section of the BJP’s high command would want a merger between the AIADMK and the AMMK, if possible, before the elections, hoping it would consolidate the votes against the DMK.”
Though Sasikala has not contested politically, she has largely been a powerful behind-the-scenes operator. Following Jayalalithaa’s death, she briefly held the reins of the AIADMK and was set to become chief minister before O Paneerselvam revolted against her and she was subsequently convicted in the disproportionate assets case and sent to Bengaluru prison in 2017. Sasikala appointed Palaniswami as the chief minister before she left to prison. But Palaniswami joined hands with Paneerselvam, uniting the two factions of the AIADMK, and expelled Sasikala and Dhinakaran from the party.
“Sasikala’s original support came from the Thevars community in the south-west Tamil Nadu and much of Dhinakaran’s votes come from this region,” said Narayanan. In 2019 parliamentary polls, Dhinakaran’s AMMK had a 4 per cent of vote share and it was primarily from this community. “AIADMK cadre belonging to that community want her (Sasikala) back to ensure they don’t lose out from this bloc,” Narayanan said, adding that Palaniswami inaugurating Jayalalithaa’s memorial on the same day as Sasikala’s likely release was to keep the flock of the entire cadre across caste lines together.
A senior AIADMK minister, however, ruled out Sasikala's re-induction. “When public sentiment is also against Sasikala, it will affect the AIADMK if she is brought back,” the minister said. In the three years, the AIADMK has amended the party by-laws to prevent Sasikala’s re-entry. As per the new rule, only an active member for five years can hold a party post.
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