Four years after Tamil Nadu Deputy Chief Minister and AIADMK Coordinator O Panneerselvam launched his ‘dharmayudham’ or righteous war against former Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa’s aide VK Sasikala, he has made a dramatic U-turn.
In an interview with a Tamil news channel, he said that the party’s former general secretary Sasikala’s re-induction into the All India Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) will be considered if she is ready to accept the democratic set-up of the party.
The Thanthi TV interview released on Tuesday, 23 March. OPS had earlier denied Sasikala’s entry into AIADMK. The statement has come just a fortnight before Tamil Nadu heads for elections on 6 April.
In the interview, OPS clarified that he had never accused Sasikala of having links with Jayalalithaa's death. An enquiry commission should look into the former CM’s death so that Sasikala could prove her innocence, he said.
“I do not have any dissatisfaction with Sasikala. After Jayalalithaa’s demise there were some doubts cast on Sasikala. So even during my ‘dharmayudham’, I had said that a commission should enquire into Jayalalithaa’s death since there were doubts which may malign Sasikala’s reputation. I wanted her to be relieved of the bad name,” he said.
Panneerselavam said that as Sasikala had served a prison sentence for four years on corruption charges, on “humanitarian grounds” her return to the party can be considered.
Sources close to AIADMK told The Quint, “We think that Sasikala’s exit from electoral politics is a strategic move by the BJP. AMMK could be approached for a post-poll alliance. She probably took this decision to facilitate AMMK’s merger with AIADMK.”
Sasikala’s Stint With Politics
While Sasikala was very close to former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa and quite influential, she used to keep a low public profile. In the brief period after Jayalalithaa’s demise in 2016, a power tussle broke out within the AIADMK, and Sasikala took the reins of the party.
But soon after, O Panneerselvam announced a ‘dharmayudham’ where he accused Sasikala of coercing party members to accept her leadership. Sasikala was then convicted in a corruption case. Edapaddi Palaniswami who was once a Sasikala loyalist, deserted her, reconciled with OPS, seized control of the party and became the chief minister of Tamil Nadu.
Sasikala and her nephew TTV Dhinakaran who were ousted from the AIADMK founded the Amma Makkal Munnettra Kazagam or AMMK.
On 4 March, even as Tamil Nadu was expected Sasikala’s AMMK to split AIADMK’s votes, she said that she has decided to quit politics.
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