Telephonic conversations between ousted AIADMK chief VK Sasikala and some of her supporters are giving mixed signals about her political plans, months after her release from jail and the AIADMK's defeat in the Tamil Nadu assembly election.
In one such conversation that was shared widely on social media in the last week of May, which her team confirmed that it's her voice, she is heard telling a supporter, "Don't worry. Be courageous. I will come after the pandemic is over." The party worker is heard responding, "We are with you, Amma."
Former Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami, who is AIADMK's number two, dismissed it as Ms Sasikala's chat with an AMMK worker and nothing to do with AIADMK workers. However, in another conversation, Ms Sasikala is heard talking to a reported AIADMK worker in which she tacitly targeted EPS.
"Chinamma is speaking to those supporters who wrote to her as she couldn't write back to them since there were no courier services due to the lockdown. She gives them a pep talk," a source close to Ms Sasikala told NDTV.
On whether this was a trial balloon, he added, "At the moment, we can only say this, she would continue to reach out to supporters."
Ms Sasikala, who was released from jail in January after serving a 4-year term following her conviction in a disproportionate assets case in which former Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa was the main accused, can't contest polls for six years.
Though she nurtured hopes of entering active politics, she decided to stay away from it just before the elections after her attempts to woo leaders from the then ruling AIADMK did not work out.
Many saw her move as a clever strategy to take control of the AIADMK if the party suffered a rout in the polls. Though EPS and O Panneerselvam, also known as OPS, had a tussle over the chief ministerial candidate, the party eventually decided to field EPS. Though the party lost the election, it managed to win 66 seats and EPS emerged stronger.
It was Ms Sasikala who nurtured OPS, who is from her Thevar community. But after Jayalalithaa died, OPS rebelled against Ms Sasikala, who later made EPS the Chief Minister. However, both leaders patched up when she was in jail and ousted her from the party.
Her nephew TTV Dhinakaran's AMMK had suffered a rout in assembly polls. This development comes at a time there is unease between EPS and OPS over who would be the leader of opposition. Though OPS aspired, EPS had his way.