Chennai: Weeks ahead of Tamil Nadu assembly elections, expelled AIADMK leader V K Sasikala on Wednesday announced "she will stay away from politics," but would pray for the "golden rule" of the late party supremo Jayalalithaa.
In a sort of u-turn from her earlier statement of engaging in active politics after completion of her four-year jail term in an assets case, the close aide of Jayalalithaa also called for unity among the "true supporters" of the late leader to keep the "common enemy" DMK away from power.
The sudden announcement came as a bolt out of the blue especially after her grand return from Bengaluru last month led to expectations that she would play a big role in the run up to the April 6 elections in which the ruling AIADMK is eyeing a record third term.
"I will stay away from politics and keep praying my sister Puratchi Thalaivi (Jayalalithaa), whom I consider as God, and the Lord Almighty for the establishment of the golden rule of Amma," Sasikala said in a statement.
The 69 year-old, considered a powerful confidante of Jayalalithaa and said to have enjoyed a say in party affairs, insisted she never yearned for power or authority.
"Much like I was the sister who implemented Amma's thoughts, I am the same even after her death."
"I have never yearned for power or authority. I will be ever indebted to Puratchi Thalaivi and the people of Tamil Nadu," she said.
In her statement, she appealed to Jayalalithaa's "true supporters" to work unitedly in the April 6 elections and prevent "common enemy", DMK, identified as "evil force" by the late chief minister, from coming to power.
"Amma's true supporters should work unitedly as siblings in the coming elections to ensure the golden rule of Puratchi Thalaivar (AIADMK founder late CM M G Ramachandran) and Puratchi Thalaivi (revolutionary leader) continues even for over another 100 years in lines with Puratchi Thalaivi's desire," she said.
"Amma's supporters should deftly prevent our common enemy DMK, identified as evil force by her, from coming to power and establish Amma's golden rule," Sasikala said and thanked Jayalalithaa's supporters and others.
Political observers are of the view that the AIADMK would benefit from the decision of Sasikala, whose bid to become Chief Minister in February 2017 came to naught with the Supreme Court sentencing her to four year imprisonment in the Rs Rs 66.65 crore assets case.
She had returned to the state on February 8 to a rousing reception by her supporters all the way from Bengaluru to Chennai and announced her intention to engage in active politics amid indications of a confrontation with the AIADMK.
Her subsequent political moves, including the stand of the AMMK floated by her nephew TTV Dhinakaran in the polls was keenly awaited by observers and political parties alike in the state even as the AIADMK repeatedly asserted it would have no truck with her.
Meanwhile, Dhinakaran said he tried to talk his aunt out of her decision but could only "delay" it by half an hour before she released her statement to the media.
On her court case against her removal as then AIADMK's interim general secretary, he hinted she may not persist with it.
Sasikala had earlier said she would be in active politics as she thought that will ensure unity, he told reporters soon after Sasikala made public her decision to stay away.
"She was telling there will be unity only if she stayed away and therefore she has taken this decision," he added.
However, Dhinakaran, said her decision was "demoralising".
Also, "she did not want to be an object of discussion about being reinducted in the AIADMK and therefore chose to stay away," he said.
Ever since her return from Bengaluru, political circles have been abuzz over her possible reinduction in the ruling AIADMK, which under the joint leadership of O Panneerselvam and K Palaniswami, had expelled her in 2017 after the then rival leaders merged their respective factions.
Dhinakaran said Sasikala had picked "the present chief minister," Palaniswami to the post in 2017 before leaving for Bengaluru to serve the prison term.
After Jayalalithaa's death in December 2016, Sasikala "established Amma's rule, kept insisting Amma's supporters should remain united," he said.
BJP state president L Murugan welcomed Sasikala's decision and to converge on the idea of keeping DMK away from the ruling saddle.
"Her intention has been to ensure DMK, which is inimical to the growth of the country and the state, doesn't come to power."
"She has disappointed all those who tried to create confusion using her and come to power in Tamil Nadu," he said....