Sasikala will not be able to contest elections for ten years - which is a political death knell of sorts for a person whose sole claim for taking charge of the AIADMK party has been due to her political proximity with the former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu - J Jayalalithaa.
The Supreme Court convicted Sasikala Natarajan in the disproportionate assets case and has sentenced her to four years in jail. Not just that, Sasikala will not be able to contest elections for ten years – which is a political death knell of sorts for a person whose sole claim for taking charge of the AIADMK party has been due to her political proximity with the former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu – J Jayalalithaa.
Unlike Jayalalithaa whose popularity was iconic and almost god-like with the people of the state, ‘the verdict against Sasikala is unlikely to trigger any mass displays or demonstrations of grief. In politics, it is said that staying away for ten days is bad, then imagine a ”leader” being banished from the political scenario for 10 years – it is as good as being ousted forever!
In recent days, we saw the battle lines that were drawn out between Sasikala and O Panneerselvam who had served as Chief Minister earlier when he was been chosen by Jayalalithaa herself. The past few days had MLAs switching sides to both camps but with Sasikala camp, the numbers were more than what OPS could claim. While OPS had mass support, Sasikala was confident of proving her majority on the floor of the House because a majority of the MLAs were with her or as many TV reports suggested, were “caged” by her and had no other choice of exercising an independent course of action. That their voices were being forcibly clamped and their actions were decided by Sasikala is something that probably set a low point in Tamil Nadu politics.
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Now let’s get a closer look at what this verdict means for the key stakeholders – AIADMK and DMK.
AIADMK – It is too early for the OPS camp to celebrate as Sasikala should not be written off too easily – legal options may be available for her even if the public anger against her seems to be mounting. A majority of the MLAs from Sasikala’s camp are likely to switch to OPS as Sasikala’s political prospects of making a strong come back are nil and this may give OPS the numbers to prove majority and stake a claim to form the government in Tamil Nadu. That Sasikala is out of the way for ten years presents a clear opportunity for OPS to emerge as the leader of the party and the state but it is not as rosy a picture as it sounds. If the Governor does go ahead and invite OPS to form the government, the question, however, remains: Will OPS be able to command the absolute respect and loyalty of his party cadres that have been divided in the Sasikala-OPS tussle or will the party cadres crumble like a pack of cards when challenges arise? Will OPS be able to step into Amma’s larger-than-life shoes and set sail smoothly? In all likelihood, OPS may have a short term as Chief Minister but may not have the kind of powerful long innings that his predecessor is known to have enjoyed.
DMK – One crisis after the other has hit Tamil Nadu right after Jayalalithaa’s demise. A wait-and-watch policy by DMK has not helped it gain any foothold with the masses and this tactic may not work if it misses opportunities to establish a stronghold in the state. Will DMK, under MK Stalin, extend absolute support to OPS as was promised during the OPS-Sasikala tussle for power? That seems unlikely – DMK would want to find the chinks in OPS’ armour and use it to gain political mileage and come back to power in Tamil Nadu. In all likelihood, DMK will find ways to pitch development as its main plank to attack the AIADMK and bounce back to power.
Now that Sasikala is out of the political scene for the next ten years, both DMK and AIADMK are in the race and the Governor’s role today has become more critical determining the political destiny of Tamil Nadu.
This is not the time for celebrations yet, OPS and MK Stalin – this verdict is just the beginning of another long-drawn battle which may not conclude with a happy ending that we are all anticipating.