Sasikala Natarajan, the aide of former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa, returned to Tamil Nadu to a rousing reception by her supporters after serving a four-year jail term for corruption. The return of Sasikala, called Chinnamma (junior mother) by her followers, will open up a new angle of attack on the ruling AIADMK which has to take on energized DMK ahead of the Assembly elections.
Sasikala, who had to be hospitalised for Covid after her release from a Bengaluru prison, had spent a week in a holiday resort near the Karnataka capital from where she left in an SUV on Monday morning. Her supporters belonging to the AMMK, a breakaway party started by her nephew TTV Dhinakaran, gave her a rousing reception from Jujuvadi on the Tamil Nadu border by showering petals on her car.
Clad in a dark green saree the 66-year-old Sasikala sat in the front seat of the car which sported an AIADMK flag on the bonnet.
Hundreds of cadres waving both AIADMK and AMMK flags had arrived from various districts in Tamil Nadu to give her an emotional welcome. Though the AIADMK had lodged an official complaint with the Tamil Nadu DGP to prevent Sasikala or any non-AIADMK members from using the party’s official flag, Sasikala deliberately chose to ignore the dare and entered the state in a car bearing the flag.
Her car was stopped near Hosur by a police team and an ADSP handed over a notice saying she cannot use the AIADMK flag. Her lawyer received the notice and gave a written reply after which her car was allowed to proceed its journey towards Chennai. Sasikala’s supporters claim that she continues to be the AIADMK’s general secretary, though the post was subsequently abolished by the party general council which created two posts of coordinators to run the party.
The Palaniswami government has viewed her return as a serious political challenge and has taken pre-emptive measures to stop Sasikala from laying claim to Jayalalithaa’s political legacy by flaunting her more than three-decade proximity to the former Chief Minister. Ahead of her Chennai trip, the recently inaugurated Jayalalithaa memorials on the Marina Beach and the bungalow at Poes Garden have been closed down to prevent Sasikala from making a politically symbolic visit to these places. The state government had on Sunday also attached six properties belonging to two of Sasikala’s relatives who had been convicted along with her in the wealth case. It is a warning to Sasikala that other properties like the Kodanadu estate and two beach houses near Chennai could also be attached as per the directions of the Supreme Court in the wealth case.
While Chief Minister Palaniswami has ruled out readmitting Sasikala into the AIADMK, the ruling party remains edgy about her political plans which could derail the party’s chances in the Assembly elections. The coming days would see Palaniswami and his supporters taking on the challenge posed by Sasikala who should be enthused by the show of support en route to Chennai.