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Sasikala's five-day 'non-political' parole to meet husband may still alter AIADMK's future significantly

One of the reasons why VK Sasikala was granted a five-day parole and not a 15-day parole could be that her husband is no longer in a critical state. He underwent organ transplant surgeries on Tuesday, after a liver and a kidney from a 19-year-old youth were transplanted into his body at Chennai's Gleneagles Global Hospital.

So when Sasikala stepped out of Parappana Agrahara at 3 pm on Friday, Bengaluru prison authorities opened the gates only after drawing red lines for her. The conditions were clear: She cannot entertain any visitors, neither at her residence (she will be living with sister-in-law Ilavarasi's daughter's home in T Nagar), nor at the hospital; she cannot involve herself in any public, political or party-related activities; she cannot meet the media; and she can only visit the hospital where her husband M Natarajan is admitted. Violation of any of these conditions, and she may forget about getting another parole for the next three years.

Parole conditions are always strict, but in this case, even the Tamil Nadu government is reported to have insisted that Sasikala be barred from political activities. A no-objection certificate from the Chennai police is mandatory before parole can be granted.

File image of VK Sasikala. PTI

File image of VK Sasikala. PTI

Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswamy has reason to be worried because he knows that Sasikala would make the most of the next five days. Though she has come out of jail only to meet her estranged husband, she also has several other political tasks to execute. In her absence, her nephew TTV Dhinakaran has been outsmarted by Palaniswamy, ironically a man the Dhinakaran-Sasikala combine had chosen as Tamil Nadu chief minister. But Palaniswamy has checkmated the Mannargudi clan by joining hands with O Panneerselvam, who had raised the banner of revolt against Sasikala in February.

Sasikala would not want to be seen as violating any of the parole conditions. But who is to prevent AIADMK leaders from getting in touch with her to enquire about Natarajan's health? It would be difficult for the Karnataka police that is guarding her to stop people from extending such courtesies. Textile minister OS Manian has already said he would meet Sasikala when she is released. Leaders of a few other letterhead parties may also express a desire to meet her. It would be important for the Dhinakaran camp to show that their leader is not to be dismissed as a spent political force.

The agencies cannot possibly stop Sasikala from working the phones. What EPS and OPS would be most wary of is the fact that several MLAs owe their political careers to Sasikala. Even when Jayalalithaa was alive, Sasikala was their point of contact inside Poes Garden, and was the conduit used by political aspirants to present their case before the then AIADMK supremo. Those in AIADMK also concede that there is a world of difference between a call from Dinakaran and one from Sasikala, and attempts made by 'Chinnamma' to woo back some of the loyalists-turned-enemy campers cannot be ruled out.

Sasikala's parole also comes at a time when things aren't looking up for Dinakaran. The Supreme Court has asked the Election Commission to decide on the 'two leaves' symbol used by the party before 10 November, rejecting Dhinakaran's plea of a February 2018 deadline. Furthermore, the Madras High Court is also likely to give its verdict on the disqualification of 18 MLAs from Camp Dhinakaran, and if it goes against him, it could seriously hurt the political future of the Mannargudi family.

Just as Sasikala's parole application was being processed, the EPS government made an attempt to scare Camp Dinakaran by slapping sedition cases against TTV and 16 of his supporters for having distributed NEET pamphlets. These pamphlets were critical of the state and central governments for following a policy that led to the suicide of medical aspirant Anitha, who ended her life on 1 September after failing to secure a medical seat.

The fact that Section 124A that deals with sedition was invoked by the police in Salem, Palaniswamy's home district, suggests an intention to muzzle Dinakaran's voice of dissent.

But though many in the AIADMK will be watching Sasikala's presence in Chennai with keen interest, her temporary reprieve has perhaps come a bit too late in the day. Those who have decided to do business with EPS-OPS and do not mind kowtowing to a new power centre in New Delhi also know there is very little goodwill for Sasikala on the streets of Tamil Nadu, and that makes her a spent force politically. Which means that once the five days are done and Sasikala returns to prison, it would be business as usual in Chennai.

Updated Date: Oct 07, 2017 01:32 AM

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