For more than three hours she was not just the elephant in the room. Sasikala, confidante to J Jayalalithaa who ruled Tamil Nadu more like an empress, was the hot topic of discussion within the party founded by MGR and consolidated by his protege Jaya. Former CMs E Palaniswami and O Panneerselvam joined ranks to keep Sasikala out of the party while expelling her loyalists who had the temerity to speak to her on their mobile phones seeking her comeback. So long as the two heads of AIADMK keep their flock together, they can stave off any attempts by the discredited Jaya aide to create confusion in the party about her imminent comeback. But she seems determined to get back in and seize control by manipulating sentiment among the party rank and file. Jailed for graft, Sasikala’s strength is a seemingly infinite access to funds. Disqualified as she is from standing in elections for another six years, Sasikala aims to become a party boss like Lalu Prasad Yadav, who is under a similar cloud. Her strategy before the polls was to announce retirement from politics in the hope that once the AIADMK was trounced at the polls, there would be a clamour for her re-entry. That didn’t happen with the party winning 66 of 75 alliance seats. But Sasikala lurks, waiting for that chance to pounce.