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Sasikala lands in jail; supporters clash with cops

BENGALURU

All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) general secretary VK Sasikala, held guilty for corruption, on Wednesday surrendered before a trial court at the Parappana Agrahara Jail here.

As the long-time confidante of the late Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa reached the prison complex, clashes erupted between party supporters and police personnel. She gave herself up at the jail on the city’s southern outskirts with her relatives Elavarasi and VN Sudhakaran after reaching by road, officials said.

One official said Sasikala underwent a medical check-up.

The surrender came a day after the Supreme Court upheld her conviction in a case of holding assets disproportionate to known sources of income.

Earlier in the day, before setting off for Bengaluru, Sasikala paid an emotional tribute at the memorial to her long-time mentor Jayalalithaa, flanked by scores of supporters. She could be seen pounding the memorial with her palms and battling to hold back tears before being driven away in a SUV in the middle of a motorcade at the start of the 350-kilometre trip.

The Supreme Court had rejected a plea to allow Sasikala more time before surrendering to authorities to begin the sentence, which has barred her from running from public office for a decade.

The 59-year-old had been anointed as Jayalalithaa’s successor by the state’s dominant party, the AIADMK. It had been expected she would be sworn in later this week until Tuesday’s bombshell verdict.

The sentence brought a dramatic halt to the former video parlour saleswoman’s meteoric rise. She was on the cusp of becoming the leader of one of India’s most populous and prosperous states.

Sasikala had been involved in a bitter battle with acting chief minister, O Panneerselvam, who had been trying to block her ascent.

But before Tuesday’s ruling she  appeared to have won enough support to be sworn in by the state assembly this week.

She skipped Tuesday’s court hearing, instead stayed at a resort in the state capital Chennai with several dozen legislators over fears that Panneerselvam’s camp might try and poach them before her investiture.

The corruption case dates back to the late 1990s, when Jayalalithaa and Sasikala were accused of profiting from the chief minister’s office and acquiring wealth beyond their income. They were jointly accused of illegally amassing assets including bungalows, luxury cars, tea estates and nearly 30 kilogrammes of gold worth around 660 million rupees, equivalent to around $10 million.

Separately, the police on Wednesday registered a case against Sasikala and legislature party leader Edapadi K Palanisamy after a party legislator accused them of abduction. The party has denied the claim.

SS Saravanan, a legislator from Madurai South constituency, filed an abduction complaint against Sasikala and Palanisamy, who was elected leader of the AIADMK legislature wing in place of Sasikala.

Saravanan landed up at acting  Panneerselvam’s residence here on Monday and told the media that he scaled a wall at the resort in Koovathur.

Agencies