Tamil Nadu Election 2021: Sasikala is here, but her ascent to power will not be easy

by Joseph K. Clark

Sasikala is out of jail after four years. (IE) Tamil Nadu Assembly Election 2021: Tamil Nadu is heading for a possible showdown between the OPS-EPS duo and Sasikala, who was once believed to be the rightful successor of former chief minister J Jayalalithaa. Out of jail after four years, Sasikala is expected to disrupt the state politics by challenging the two key leaders — O Panneerselvam and E Palanisamy — of her former political party, AIADMK.

A close confidant of former chief minister Jayalalitha, Sasikala was set to take over the party’s reins following the demise of Amma in 2016. Chinami, as Sasikala is known, was made the general secretary of the party in the first meeting held after the death of Jayalalithaa. She was also elected as leader of the legislature party and was set to become the chief minister of Tamil Nadu. However, the Supreme Court played spoilsport by upholding her conviction by a lower court in the disproportionate assets case. She was sent to four-year jail till January 2021.

Tamil Nadu Election

While she was in jail, the AIADMK headed by OPS and EPS expelled Sasikala from the party. Following this, Sasikala’s nephew Dhinakaran founded a new party — Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam — and appointed Chinamma as the general secretary of AMMK. Now that Sasikala is out of jail, there are two possibilities, an alliance between AMMK and AIADMK or the return of Sasikala and Dhinakaran into their former party.

However, OPS and EPS have made it clear that there is no place for Sasikala or Dhinakaran in AIADMK. Reports suggest that the BJP, an ally of AIADMK in Tamil Nadu, warned the chief minister and deputy chief minister against patch-up with Sasikala. The CM and Deputy CM, too, are confident of their command in the party as Sasikala can’t fight elections for at least another six years. She was barred from contesting elections for 10 years after her conviction in 2017. She will have to wait till 2027, and by that time, she will be 72. But she will have to wait till 2031 to contest the state election as the next assembly polls will be due in 2026.

With the AIADMK option out of reach, Sasikala would now be the boss of AMMK. The AMMK has so far fielded its candidates in the only election, the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. It could not win even a single seat in 37 seats contested. But it managed to secure over 8 percent vote share, which can be enormous in assembly elections provided they are not scattered. But even consolidated votes may not be enough for the AMMK to come to power on its own. Because in the same Lok Sabha polls, the DMK had got 32.76 percent followed by AIADMK 18.48 percent and Congress 12.76 percent — compare these with the AMMK’s 8 percent.

However, Dhinakaran, in charge of the AMMK in the absence of Chinamma, enjoys considerable popularity. He, in December 2017, won the by-election from the RK Nagar seat, which was earlier represented by Jayalalitha. He contested as an independent candidate and won by over 40,000 votes.

While the wave in Tamil Nadu is against the ruling AIADMK-BJP, the state is set to witness a multi-corner fight with Stalin’s DMK, Dhinakaran’s AMMK, and Kamal Haasan’s Makkal Needhi Maiam in the fray. Reports suggest that Stalin has an upper edge and could sweep the election with a wide margin. In the 2016 assembly elections, the AIADMK had won 136 of 234 with a 40.88 percent vote share. DMK had got 89 of 178 it contested with 31 percent votes. Its ally Congress won just 8 of 41 it contested.

This would be the first assembly election for AIADMK and DMK without Jayalalitha and Karunanidhi leaders at the helm. The assembly election in Tamil Nadu is likely to take place in April-May.

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