Of Sasikala’s return and political unease

AIADMK justifies its reaction, says workers would’ve got a wrong message otherwise

The return of V.K.Sasikala, former interim general secretary of the AIADMK and aide of former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa, has caused disquiet in political circles, more so in the ruling party.

Though prominent leaders of the AIADMK and the DMK have been on the campaign trail for more than a month, electioneering has not generated any heat, which is the norm otherwise. But once the date of Ms. Sasikala’s return to Tamil Nadu was known about a week ago, the ruling party went into overdrive to ambush her plans.

“By reacting in the fashion it did, the ruling dispensation has converted a non-event into a political event of some significance,” says G. Palanithurai, a veteran academic dealing with political science and development administration. “Had the powers that be ignored her arrival in the State, their image would have gone up,” he observes.

However, Fisheries Minister D. Jayakumar, who is regarded as the spokesperson of the Cabinet, denies the suggestion that the ruling party has panicked. Asked whether the party should have protested the way it did, another senior Minister feels that had there been silence on its part, “there is every likelihood of the cadre interpreting it wrongly. We do not want to be the cause of any confusion among our workers.”

Party flag

Regardless of the AIADMK’s “strong objections” to her using the party flag or symbol, a couple of vehicles that brought Ms. Sasikala from Bengaluru to Chennai did sport the party flag. At a temple at Hosur in Krishnagiri district, she was wearing a scarf that bore the colour of the party flag.

“The message from her is that she represents the AIADMK and she is the general secretary of the party,” feels P. Palaniappan, former Higher Education Minister and deputy secretary of the Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam (AMMK). His observation has reflected Ms. Sasikala’s statement issued on Monday (which was shared with the media through the pro-Sasikala television channel Jaya TV). She stated that she would devote the rest of her life to the “progress” of the party.

Seeking to identify herself with the AIADMK, she said, “My objective is that all of us should work together to ensure that our common enemy does not return to power and be defeated. It is our responsibility to protect the idea of ‘Puratchi Thalaivi’ [Jayalalithaa] of not falling a prey to the design of our adversary in dividing us.” She added that the party should not “disintegrate owing to the personal likes and dislikes of a few individuals.”

Notwithstanding her appeal, the AIADMK leadership seems to be in no mood for reconciliation, a position reiterated by Mr. Jayakumar earlier in the day. AIADMK supporters feel that barring some disenchanted elements, who may cross over to her camp, the party’s rank and file will rally behind Chief Minister and co-coordinator Edappadi K. Palaniswami and Deputy Chief Minister and coordinator O. Panneerselvam.

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