A telephonic conversation between former All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) leader VK Sasikala and a party cadre has surfaced wherein the decades-old personal and political aide of J Jayalalithaa is heard speaking about the struggles of the late Tamil Nadu CM in uniting warring factions after party founder MG Ramachandran’s (MGR) death.
“I hope you remember what happened in 1989. You remember history, don’t you?” Sasikala is heard asking a party worker, Gubrendran, whose entire family swears by the AIADMK and who vouched for his loyalty towards her during the entire conversation. The audio was released days after AIADMK leaders E Palaniswami and O Panneerselvam fired 16 party cadres who had similar conversations with Sasikala, who was released from jail weeks ahead of the Tamil Nadu Assembly election. The AIADMK lost power to the MK Stalin-led DMK and is now the main opposition party in the state.
Sasikala was referring to the tumultuous post-MGR period of the AIADMK when his widow Janaki Ramachandran had a following among a section of the party, while loyalists like Palaniswami were with Jayalalithaa. Known as the “Jay-Jaa” split (after the first Tamil letters of the contenders), it was a period of intense strife and rough politics that saw Jayalalithaa emerge victorious in claiming the legacy of MGR.
In the audio, Sasikala’s voice was cracked but the message was clear: like her ‘Akka’ (elder sister) in 1989, she too would rise to the occasion and recapture the reins she lost in February 2017, days ahead of her incarceration in the disproportionate assets case.
Sasikala is striking, one audio at a time, at the heart of the AIADMK, which is its cadre strength — the rank and file of the party. The effect of such an attempt at a time when the party suffered a humiliating defeat and seems to be in a demoralised state is yet to be seen.
Post Jayalalithaa’s demise, the AIADMK is also perhaps missing a unifying figure who is as charismatic, has excellent oratory and administrative skills, along with the wily nature needed to ward off the machinations of foes and betrayers alike.
Sasikala promised to plunge into more action in the coming weeks. “Very soon, I will come and meet you. We will set it right soon…” Sasikala who has served her jail term in the assets case, is still hounded by investigators from the income tax department and Enforcement Directorate who have been probing irregularities in transactions. Through the coming months, Sasikala’s manoeuvrings could be to oust the BJP-friendly leading combo — Palaniswami and Panneerselvam.
For the DMK, fresh in power and raring to flex its muscle against the BJP at the Union government, the diversion comes at an opportune moment.