Expelled AIADMK leader VK Sasikala on Monday returned to Tamil Nadu to a grand reception, days after completing her four-year jail term in Bengaluru in a Rs 66.65 crore disproportionate assets case. Sasikala, a close aide of late chief minister J Jayalalithaa, crossed into Tamil Nadu at Athipalli in Krishnagiri district bordering Karnataka, around 10 am as her supporters broke into celebrations, dancing to drum beats and showering flower petals on her convoy.
Her return to Tamil Nadu is being keenly watched as it comes at a time when the assembly elections in the state are likely to be held in the next few months. Earlier, she left a resort on Bengaluru outkirts, accompanied by her nephew and general secretary of Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam T T V Dhinakaran, in a convoy of around 200 vehicles as her supporters raised slogans hailing her.
Before leaving, Sasikala, wearing a face mask, offered floral tributes to a portrait of Jayalalithaa. Clad in a green colour saree, the favourite hue of Jayalalithaa, she travelled in a car that sported the AIADMK flag over the bonnet, disregarding the warning by the ruling party in Tamil Nadu against its use by non-members.
The AIADMK has recently petitioned the Tamil Nadu police seeking to restrain ’non-members’ of the party from using its flag after Sasikala travelled in a car sporting the flag on her discharge from a hospital in Bengaluru on January 31. However, Dhinakaran has defended it, saying she continued to remain the AIADMK general secretary, pointing to petitions pending in court over her ’expulsion’.
’Chinnamma’, as she is fondly addressed by her followers, was greeted by a large gathering of people who waved both the AIADMK and AMMK flags as she crossed into Tamil Nadu at Athipallai border. At several locations along the road to Hosur, welcome arches were erected to greet Sasikala.
A festive atmosphere gripped the towns in the border district of Krishnagiri in western Tamil Nadu with banners, flex boards, posters and hoardings welcoming Sasikala. Women holding on their head ’Kalasha’ or pitchers decorated with flowers lined up on the roadsides to receive the leader.
Sasikala, who underwent her sentence at the Parapana Agrahara central prison here since February, 2017, was set free on January 27 but remained at the Government Victoria Hospital, where she had been admitted after testing positive for COVID-19 while under judicial custody. She was discharged from the hospital on January 31 after which she stayed at a resort, about 35 km from Bengaluru.
Sasikala along with her sister-in-law J Ilavarasi and Jayalalithaa’s disowned foster son V N Sudhakaran were sentenced to four years imprisonment by the Supreme Court in the disproportionate assets case. The assets case was originally filed against Jayalalithaa and the three others for amassment of Rs 66.65 crore assets disproportionate to their known sources of income between 1991 and 1996. The case was later transferred to Bengaluru.
While the trial court in Bengaluru convicted all the four, the Karnataka High Court later acquitted them. The Supreme Court, allowing appeals challenging their acquittals, confirmed and restored the trial court order convicting Sasikala, Illavarasi and Sudhakaran, while abating appeals related to Jayalalithaa in view of her death in December 2016.
First Published: IST