Chennai, Jan 19, 2021: VK Sasikala - a close aide of late Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and AIADMK chief J Jayalalithaa - is to be released from jail on the morning of January 27, her lawyer, Raja Sethurapandian, said Tuesday night, citing an communique from Bengaluru jail officials.
Sasikala, a claimant to the top post after Jayalalithaa died in 2016, was jailed four years ago in a disproportionate assets case, in which the former Chief Minister was the principal accused, and is scheduled to be released after paying a ₹ 10 crore fine.
Her release comes just months before Tamil Nadu holds Assembly elections.
The deaths of Jayalalithaa (in 2016) and the DMK’s MK Karunanidhi (in 2018), another former Chief Minister and an iconic figure in the southern state’s political landscape, leave a massive vacuum that many are racing to fill.
At the height of her power Sasikala was a hugely influential force in Tamil Nadu politics, and, if she is able to rediscover even some of that influence, she could emerge a key player in the election.
Earlier today, however, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami emphatically ruled out talk of Sasikala re-joining the ruling AIADMK.
"No chance for that. She is not in the party at all... she is not in the party. 100 per cent she will not be admitted. AIADMK is now functioning after clearly deciding on this. There is no different opinion on this," Mr Palaniswami told reporters in Delhi.
The Chief Minister is in the city to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah amid reports the BJP (an AIADMK ally) wants its partner to join forces with Sasikala and her nephew TTV Dhinakaran’s AMMK.
This, reports suggest, is to guard against splintering of votes that could benefit the opposition DMK.
Mr Palaniswami famously fell at Sasikala’s feet in February 2017 after she anointed him chief minister; this was before she was shipped off to jail to serve her sentence.
Months later, while she was in jail, he removed her the post of General Secretary, and many feel Sasikala might be motivated to seek revenge.
In February, as she was proceeding to Bengaluru’s Parappana Agrahara Jail, she stopped at Jayalalithaa’s memorial and was seen hitting it thrice with her right palm - a gesture seen as three vows taken to avenge what she thought were wrongs done to her or the memory of the former Chief Minister.
Tamil Nadu Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam - another claimant to the top post - also rebelled against Sasikala, but caste ties (both are from the Thevar community) could mend fences.
The AIADMK has announced that Mr Palaniswami will be the chief ministerial candidate, but the BJP has yet to endorse this - another potential sign of unrest in the ruling alliance.