Clad in a green colour saree, the favourite of her mentor Jayalalithaa, and flaunting AIADMK's flag on her car, VK Sasikala on Monday returned to Tamil Nadu to a grand welcome by her supporters after spending four years in a jail in Bengaluru in a corruption case.

Sasikala entered Tamil Nadu at Athipalli in Krishnagiri, which borders Karnataka as she waved her supporters who lined up the road, raising slogans, showering flowers on her carcade, and dancing to drum beats. 

A confidante of former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa, Sasikala was expelled from All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) and removed from the post of party general secretary in September 2017.

Sasikala drone

She was released from prison on January 27. She complained of fever and breathing problem on January 21 following which she was taken to Bowring and Lady Curzon Hospital in Bengaluru where she later tested positive for COVID-19. The expelled AIADMK leader was released from the hospital on January 31 and after that she spent in a 7-day quarantine at a resort in Bengaluru. 

Grand welcome 

On Monday morning, she offered prayers at at Maa Pratyangira Kalika Alayam temple in Hosur beforing heading towards Chennai. Huge security deployment was made in Hosur.

At several places in Hosur, Athipallai and other places, welcome  arches were erected to greet Sasikala. Her supporters gathered in huge numbers in Bengaluru, Hosur, Chennai and other places in her way to greet her leader. They also put up posters, banners, flex boards, and gigantic billboards in her support in Chennai and Bengaluru, hailing her as "permanent General Secretary of AIADMK", "Raj Mata" and "Guardian Goddess".


Sasikala's entry indicates disruption in TN politics

Since her release from the hospital, Sasikala has been flaunting AIADMK flag on her car, indicating that she is again willing to reclaim the legacy of Jayalalithaa, famously known as "Amma" by her supporters who call Sasikala as "Chinamma" (mother's younger sister). 

In a bid to counter Sasikala's efforts to take control of the AIADMK, the party recently requested the Tamil Nadu police not allow "non-members" to use the party flag. Nonetheless, on Monday morning, she again sported the AIADMK flag on her car, irking the AIADMK, which is now controlled by Chief Minsiter Edappadi Palaniswami and his deputy O Panneerselvam. 

Sasikala's nephew TTV Dhinakaran, however, has defended her sporting AIADMK flag, saying that she continued to hold the post of AIADMK general secretary, indicating that petitions challenging her expulsion from the AIADMK are still pending in court.

Dhinakaran founded Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam (AMMK) after Sasikala was removed from the party and sent to jail.  She carefully chose to wear the green colour saree to send a message that she is the true flagbearer of Jayalalithaa's political legacy. 

V. K. Sasikala, Sasikala Natarajan
Sasikala NatarajanReuters

Case against Sasikala

Along with Jayalalithaa's disowned foster son VN Sudhakaran and her sister-in-law J Illavarasi, Sasikala was sentenced to four years in jail by the Supreme Court in a Rs 66 crore disproportionate assets case.

Jayalalithaa was also an accused in the case which involves incomes disproportionate to their known sources of income between 1991 and 1996.

Will Sasikala be a factor in TN polls?

Sasikala's release from the jail is being keenly watched in view of the upcoming Assembly elections in Tamil Nadu. Many political experts believe she would prove as a disruptor in the election and in the AIADMK which is now controlled by the chief minister and deputy chief minister. 

When she was in jail, she was removed by Edappadi Palaniswami, who was chosen by Sasikala to head the government as part of the deal he struck with then rebel AIADMK leader O Panneerselvam. As part of the compromise, Panneerselvam was made convenor of the AIADMK and the deputy chief minister. 

O Panneerselvam and Edappadi Palaniswami
O Panneerselvam and Edappadi Palaniswami.Twitter

Following a long dispute over party symbol and flag, the Election Commission of India had acknowledged the Panneerselvam-led as the real AIADMK and has permitted them to use the party flag and symbol.

Sasikala is poised to influence the upcoming Assembly election as a faction of the AIADMK still openly supports her. Several leaders of the AIADMK have been expelled for expressing support to Sasikala. On Wednesday, the party expelled its Karnataka party secretary MP Yuvaraj, who met Sasikala, at a resort in Bengaluru, for bringing "disrepute to the party". 

Last month, the AIADMK government quietly converted Jayalalithaa's posh home in Chennai's Poes Garden, where Sasikala had put up for sometime, into a memorial in low-profile and rushed function.