With just weeks to go for the assembly election in Tamil Nadu, J Jayalalithaa's close aide VK Sasikala has shocked everyone by quitting politics. The expelled AIADMK party leader wrote a two-page letter and released it first on Jaya TV in which she announced that she will stay away from politics, but would pray for the "golden rule" of the late party supremo Jayalalithaa.
The sudden announcement came as a bolt out of the blue as earlier Sasikala said that she would remain active in politics after completion of her jail term. The 69-year-old had served four years of jail term in the Rs 66.65 crore DA assets case. She had returned to the state on February 8 to a rousing reception by her supporters all the way from Bengaluru to Chennai.
In fact, her grand return in Bengaluru led to expectations that she would play a big role in the run-up to the April 6 elections in which the ruling AIADMK is eyeing a record third term.
But yesterday Sasikala stepped down from politics and appealed to Amma's (Jayalalithaa) followers to work hard to ensure her rule. She also appealed for unity among the "true supporters" of Jayalalithaa to keep the "common enemy" DMK away from power.
"Amma's true supporters should work unitedly as siblings in the coming elections to ensure the golden rule of Puratchi Thalaivar (AIADMK founder late CM M G Ramachandran) and Puratchi Thalaivi (revolutionary leader) continues even for over another 100 years in lines with Puratchi Thalaivi's desire," she said.
Sasikala was considered a powerful confidante of Jayalalithaa and said to have enjoyed a say in party affairs but in the letter, she said that she never yearned for power or authority.
"Much like I was the sister who implemented Amma's thoughts, I am the same even after her death. I have never yearned for power or authority. I will be ever indebted to Puratchi Thalaivi and the people of Tamil Nadu," Sasikala added.
Political observers are of the view that the AIADMK would benefit from the decision of Sasikala, whose bid to become Tamil Nadu's chief minister in February 2017 came to naught with the Supreme Court sentencing her to four-year imprisonment. While Sasikala's sudden decision might help AIADMK and avoid splitting of votes, it comes as a jolt to her nephew TTV Dhinakaran, who was ousted from AIADMK along with her in 2017.
Dhinakaran in 2017, defeated both AIADMK and DMK candidates in RK Nagar by-poll--Jayalalithaa's constituency-- in December. He later formed his own party, Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam (AMMK), in March 2018. The AMMK garnered 4 per cent of the vote share in the 2019 general election.
Meanwhile, Dhinakaran said he tried to talk his aunt out of her decision but could only "delay" it by half an hour before she released her statement to the media. "She was telling there will be unity only if she stayed away and therefore, she has taken this decision," he added. However, Dhinakaran, said her decision was "demoralising".
Also, "she did not want to be an object of discussion about being reinducted in the AIADMK and therefore chose to stay away," he said.
Ever since her return from Bengaluru, political circles have been abuzz over her possible reinduction in the AIADMK, which under the joint leadership of O Panneerselvam and K Palaniswami, had expelled her in 2017. Dhinakaran said Sasikala had picked "the present chief minister," Palaniswami to the post in 2017 before leaving for Bengaluru to serve the prison term.