Former All India Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam leader VK Sasikala was released from prison on Wednesday, reported PTI. She will, however, remain in hospital as she is being treated for the coronavirus infection.
A huge crowd lined up outside the Victoria Hospital, where she is undergoing treatment, and shouted slogans in her support. Some distributed sweets in celebration. The procedures for her release were completed at the hospital itself.
Sasikala, who was a close aide of former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister late J Jayalalithaa, was convicted in a disproportionate assets case on February 14, 2017. She is set to be released after paying a Rs 10-crore fine, failing which her imprisonment would have been extended by 13 more months.
In the 21-year-old case, Jayalalithaa was also accused of colluding with Sasikala, her sister-in-law Ilavarasi, and their nephew Sudhakaran between 1991 and 1996. The four had allegedly amassed money of around Rs 65 crore, which were disproportionate to their known sources of income. Some of the properties under the scanner in the case include Jayalalithaa’s Kodanad estate and her Poes Garden residence.
Sasikala had tested positive for the coronavirus on January 20, days ahead of her scheduled release. The 63-year-old was admitted to Bengaluru’s Bowring Hospital, and was later shifted to Victoria Hospital.
A bulletin from Victoria Hospital said that Sasikala was doing well, PTI reported on Tuesday. “She is asymptomatic, conscious, alert and well oriented,” it said. “She is being continuously monitored.”
Hospital authorities said that as per Covid-19 protocols, she may have to spend 10 days at the facility. But if her family wished to shift her to a private hospital they were allowed to do so.
Sasikala’s release from prison comes ahead of the Tamil Nadu Assembly elections.
But Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami on January 20 had ruled out any possibility of her rejoining the AIADMK. “She is not in the party at all... she is not in the party,” the chief minister had said. “100% she will not be admitted. AIADMK is now functioning after clearly deciding on this. There is no different opinion on this.”
The Bharatiya Janata Party, an ally of the AIADMK in Tamil Nadu, has been reportedly pushing its partner to let Sasikala back into the party fold to avoid a split of votes that could benefit the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam. However, Palaniswami, who met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah in Delhi, denied that Sasikala’s return to the party was discussed.