Sasikala Quits: Boon for AIADMK, Shocker for TTV, Bummer for DMK
Had Sasikala been in active politics the DMK would have expected the AIADMK votes to split.
While Sasikala’s seemingly shocking decision is expected to help the ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), it has come as a jolt to her nephew TTV Dhinakaran, whose party Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam (AMMK) is contesting this election.
It has also come as a shocker for Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) which was expecting votes to split between AMMK and AIADMK.
AIADMK supremo, late Jayalalithaa’s friend Sasikala, issued a letter on 3 March, exhorting Amma’s (as Jayalalithaa is fondly called) followers to work hard to ensure her rule. “As Amma used to say, defeating the evil force – DMK – should be the main aim for all obedient cadre of Amma’s party,” the letter read.
Sasikala took a moral high ground and said that she wants AIADMK to retain power in the 6 April polls. While she was often projected as power-hungry, Sasikala’s statement has conveyed that she does not wish for power, authority or money.
What Does This Mean for TTV Dhinakaran?
Earlier, on 3 March, TTV Dhinakaran who had been removed from AIADMK along with Sasikala in 2017, had said that his party AMMK will contest this election. Minutes after Sasiklala decided to quit, he told media persons outside her residence that he did not agree with her decision.
“I tried to speak to her and convince her. I told her this is unnecessary now, and requested her to remain in politics. I delayed the release of her statement for about 30 minutes. But I cannot stop her from taking a personal decision, can I?” he said.
Dhinakaran had been running AMMK all alone when Sasikala was in prison. He said that Sasikala’s decision will not prevent him from forming a third front this election. This poses a new challenge to Dhinakaran as the party now lacks the ‘Sasikala factor’ and could lose supporters. However, this maybe a move by Sasikala to call for unity between AIADMK and AMMK, he suggested.
“Maybe, it means she has nothing to claim…I said I will revive AIADMK as the leader of AMMK. I continue to say that as a follower of Amma. But she (Sasikala) could be thinking that the party is not united now and that she will step aside for the time being if it helps to unite everyone.”TTV Dhinakaran, AMMK Founder
It is important to note that Dhinakaran had made history when he won as an independent candidate in Jayalalithaa’s RK Nagar constituency in 2019. But Dhinakaran and Sasikala could not gain much from that victory as the latter got incarcerated shortly after the polls. Since then, many prominent leaders have been leaving AMMK accusing Dhinakaran of highhandedness.
A senior journalist opined that Sasikala’s exit could affect TTV Dhinakaran’s popularity and that he may not be able to gain as many votes as he would have won had she been by his side. He may also be recalled into AIADMK, he said.
What Does This Mean for AIADMK?
Sasikala’s retirement is great news for AIADMK. Sources told The Quint that Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) could have orchestrated the episode to improve AIADMK alliance’s prospects. Now, with Sasikala gone, the votes will not split between AMMK and AIADMK.
Senior AIADMK leader K P Munusamy welcomed Sasikala’s decision. “It was Dhinakaran who wished to destroy the AIADMK,” he said. When asked about taking Sasikala back into the party, he said, “Time will tell you the answer.”
One of the key elements in this tussle between AIADMK and AMMK is the caste factor.
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami’s caste is Gounder and O Pannerselvam is a Thevar by caste. Both are dominant castes in Tamil Nadu. Sasikala and Dhinakaran too are Thevars.
This caste equation was expected to split votes.
An ABP CVoter opinion poll predicted that AIADMK will lose this election and that AMMK could get 7.8 per cent of votes. This had been worrying for AIADMK. Sources suggested that senior leaders and supporters from AMMK could soon be switching camps to AIADMK.
What Does This Mean for DMK?
This news has shocked DMK which was hoping that it could benefit from the power tussle between AIADMK and AMMK.
A source in the party told The Quint, “One of the key factors we had in mind while strategically planning our election campaigns was this (Sasikala factor). We are confident that DMK has a great chance at winning this election but this factor gave us some leverage.”
“But our credibility and our relationship with our alliance parties will help us win anyway,” he added.
Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK) chief Thirumavalavan, who is in an alliance with DMK, told a regional channel Puthiyathalimurai, “She could have taken this decision because of her health condition. Or this could have been done due to pressure from the BJP.”
Now with Sasikala out of the equation, will TTV Dhinakaran be able to bag enough votes to make a significant difference? Will AIADMK take him under their wing?
TTV Dinakaran told reporters that his party is in alliance talks with other parties. He is expected to release the list of AMMK candidates by 10 March.
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