VK Sasikala’s slew of phone conversations to the AIADMK cadre underscoring the demoralisation of the rank and file has finally elicited a strong response. The faction of party co-coordinator and former chief minister Edappadi Palaniswami has said that she’s not even a primary member of the party and that she’s trying to draw some political relevance through the strange drama.
The Salem charter of the AIADMK, home ground for Palaniswami, has put out a six-resolution release that includes a condemnation for Sasikala.
Usually, party announcements followed a strict regimen under Palaniswami and O Panneerselvam. Both leaders would sign off on all major announcements, underscoring—or reminding—one another that leadership is a shared responsibility under the new post-Jayalalithaa establishment.
The condemnation resolution released on Thursday by Palaniswami’s faction didn’t feature Panneerselvam. The release also said Sasikala’s statements were aimed to polarise the cadre along caste lines (Sasikala had said in one of the leaked audios that some decisions were made with caste preferences in mind). “There is no connection between Sasikala and the party,” said the Salem AIADMK charter.
Earlier Palaniswami and Panneerselvam had fired those who had had phone conversations with Sasikala. The release on Thursday, from the sales charter headed by Palaniswami, clearly demarcates Sasikala’s most vocal critic now—Palaniswami.
Sasikala, ousted chief of the AIADMK, served a four-year prison sentence (2017-2021) in Bengaluru following conviction in a disproportionate assets case and returned to Tamil Nadu in February this year. She said in March, ahead of assembly elections, that she would stay away from politics. But after the party’s rout in the polls, her rivals in the AIADMK say she’s been playing “audio politics" in a bid to take back control.
Panneerselvam had hinted at a softening of stance even before the elections, saying Sasikala may be considered for return if she accepts the new party structure.
For the AIADMK, the exchange of fire between Palaniswami and Sasikala, while OPS remains ambivalent, has clearly not come at an opportune moment.