The setback to the AIADMK general secretary comes at a time when her loyalists, led by nephew TTV Dhinakaran are trying to destabilise the party’s government in Tamil Nadu
In a massive setback for jailed AIADMK general secretary VK Sasikala, the Supreme Court, on Wednesday, rejected her plea for a review of her conviction to a four-year jail term in connection with a 19-year-old disproportionate assets case.
The apex court’s ruling comes at a time when Sasikala’s nephew and AIADMK deputy general secretary TTV Dhinakaran is attempting a coup of sorts against the party’s Edappadi Palaniswami-led government in Tamil Nadu.
The review petition filed by Sasikala, the late AIADMK chief J Jayalalithaa’s foster son VN Sudhakaran and Sasikala’s sister-in-law Ilavarasi, in May this year, had challenged the apex court’s verdict which had set aside an earlier judgment of the Karnataka High Court which had acquitted the trio.
Sasikala’s lawyers had pleaded with the court that the key accused in the case, Jayalalithaa, is no more and Sasikala held no public office, the Prevention of Corruption Act doesn’t apply to her.
However, the apex court found no merit in the argument and held that there was no error in its earlier judgment.
“We do not find any error in the common judgment impugned, much less an apparent error on the face of the record, so as to call for its review. The review petitions are, accordingly, dismissed,” a two-judge Bench of Justices SA Bobde and Amitava Roy said in its verdict.
Sasikala and the other accused in the case had been convicted on February 14 on charges of amassing disproportionate assets to the tune of Rs 66.65 crore during Jayalalithaa’s first term as chief minister from 1991 to 1996.
The verdict had disqualified Sasikala from becoming a legislator, which had then ended her hopes of becoming chief minister of Tamil Nadu by ousting her rival O Panneerselvam (OPS). However, her conviction in the DA case had not stopped Sasikala and her loyalists in the AIADMK from forcing OPS to resign and paving the way for her then loyalist, Edappadi Palaniswami (EPS) to become chief minister.
The appointment of EPS had led to a three way split in the AIADMK weeks after he took over as chief minister with him leading one factions and the other two led by OPS and Sasikala’s nephew, Dhinakaran. The split had also forced the election commission to suspend the party ‘two-leaves’ poll symbol.
However, with the EPS and OPS factions having announced their merger, on Monday, the Dhinakaran faction, which has the support of 22 AIADMK MLAs, has once again begun to assert its political ambitions and calling for the resignation of Palaniswami. Sasikala’s stint in prison too has been controversial with a recent video showing her move “in and out” of Bengaluru’s Parappana Agrahara Central Prison, where she had been lodged since her conviction.
With the apex court now rejecting her review petition, AIADMK sources say that the Election Commission too could soon pass an order against her in a petition filed with it that challenges her appointment as the AIADMK general secretary after the demise of Jayalalithaa.
It now remains to be seen how Dhinakaran and the AIADMK legislators loyal to Sasikala react to the verdict and whether their rebellion against the OPS government actually manages to achieve their intended goal – installing someone (read Dhinakaran) from the Sasikala family – known in Tamil politics as the Mannargudi Mafia – in the chair of the Tamil Nadu chief minister. Or will the loyalists now switch sides to their bitter rivals – EPS and OPS.