BENGALURU: The setting was similar, the moods contrasting. Three years ago, when the then Tamil Nadu chief minister, the late J Jayalalithaa, was driven into the Parappana Agrahara jail in Bengaluru after being convicted by a trial court in the disproportionate assets case, sloganeering AIADMK cadre and loyalists had thronged in thousands in a show of support.
On Wednesday, it was largely journalists and curious locals who milled around the central prison entrance as V K Sasikala made her way to the premises, having travelled by road from Chennai to surrender. Sasikala, a co-accused in the disproportionate assets case, was handed a four-year sentence by the Supreme Court on Tuesday.
The party’s women supporters, who were a visible presence during Jayalalithaa’s time, were conspicuous in their absence. This is a striking sign of the general disgruntlement among the rank and file of the party, even if muted, over Sasikala’s attempt at appropriating Jaya’s legacy.
However, Karnataka AIADMK unit secretary V Pugazhenthi believes that the verdict was a result of the case foisted by DMK. “We are confident that she will come out of this and continue to lead the party,” he said.
Asked about the reason for a few Sasikala supporters outside the prison, former MLA from Walajabad P Ganesan said, “All our MLAs and supporters are in Chennai for the formation of next government led by Edappadi K Palaniswamy. Our party is united and all are extending their support to Chinnamma. She will continue to take decisions.”
A few supporters from Sasikala’s native Mannargudi were also present in front of the jail. R Gokul, an AIADMK cadre from Mannargudi, said, “We were accompanying Chinnamma (Sasikala) from Chennai. She is innocent and has nothing to do with this case. She will continue to lead the party.”
Some AIADMK party men said they are worried about the Sasikala’s safety in Jail. “Our vehicles were attacked a few meters outside the jail despite heavy police presence. Then, how can they ensure the safety our leader Chinnamma?” asked M Maheswaran, an AIADMK leader based in Kancheepuram.
At 5.15 pm, Sasikala and her co-convict Illavarasi reached the jail after a day-long wait by her supporters. An hour later, another convict Sudhakaran also reached the prison.
A few AIADMK leaders, including deputy Lok Sabha Speaker Thambidurai, Sasikala’s husband M Natarajan, Ilavarasi’s son Vivek, Dr S Venkatesh, son of Sasikala’s brother Sundaravadanam, were among those present on the jail premises.