Tamil Nadu politics has been bipolar for that last several decades with the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) as the two major and bitter rivals. But in March 2018, a faction of the AIADMK split to form the Amma Makkal Munnettra Kazagam (AMMK) under the leadership of TTV Dhinakaran and VK Sasikala.
With Tamil Nadu Assembly election approaching in 2021, there is a possibility of the AMMK merging with the AIADMK with a little help from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) which is supporting the latter’s government in the state. Sasikala, a close aide of the late Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa, is serving a four-year jail sentence in a disproportionate assets case. Her jail term ends in February 2021 but she may be released by earlier is she manages to pay the fine imposed by the Supreme Court.
Her early release can pave the way for the AMMK and AIADMK to move forward with their speculated merger.
AMMK leaders are optimistic that her return will certainly boost their prospects in the upcoming Tamil Nadu Assembly election in 2021. Dhinakaran, who was once ousted from the AIADMK after Jayalalithaa’s death, won with a majority of around 40,000 votes in the RK Nagar byelection in 2017.
Dhinnakaran’s sudden visit to Delhi has triggered speculations in Tamil Nadu politics. He reportedly met Sasikala’s lawyer to discuss the legal strategy for her release. While others claim that he has gotten close to the BJP which is keen to merge AIADMK and AMMK, trying repeat their success in getting the Edappadi K Palaniswami and O Panneerselvam factions together in 2017.
Sasikala still remains the charisma to united the divided AIADMK ranks. After serving four years in jail in the Rs 66 crore disproportionate assets case, Sasikala’s lawyer too has confirmed that efforts are afoot to pay the fine of Rs 10 crore as per the court order which can see help in her early release.
Her release as many speculate as early as January 2021, will give her ample time to get her acts together before the Tamil Nadu election scheduled for May 2021.
Despite the fact that even after her release she will be barred from active politics for 6 years, she still remains the master architect of AMMK, which is led by her nephew TTV Dhinakaran.
The situation is especially precarious for AIADMK due to the power struggle between TN Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami, a former Sasikala loyalist himself, and deputy CM O Panneerselvam.
Now all eyes are set on the scheduled meeting of the AIADMK executive on September 28 to see how the party is going to resolve the current round of power struggle between the two camps.
So far AIADMK has been maintaining that Sasikala’s return in politics will not affect the dynamics in the state as the party is no longer the same that was synonymous with Jayalalithaa. AIADMK’s top echelons remain dismissive to her clout and her future in politics.
Sasikala, who is privy to all major party decisions during Jayalalithaa’s reign, is one of the most recognizable face in AIADMK and can swing some disgruntled and loyal party leaders to her side. While the power struggle may frustrate more AIADMK members, the sidelined leaders can choose to rally behind her.
Few functionaries hope that differences between Palaniswami and Paneerselvam factions can be amicably sorted. But the lack of action plan after her release may become a deciding factor in their electoral strategy . AIAMDK suffered a massive blow in the 2019 Lok Sabha election at the hands of Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and its allies by winning just one of the 39 seats in the state.
The die will soon be thrown, what remain to be seen is whether the AIADMK factions find it opportune to do away their differences and use Sasikala’s political influence to their advantage that too with the help of BJP or they face another tough election in May 2021.