The acquittal of J. Jayalalithaa and three of her associates in the disproportionate assets case in which the special court at Bengaluru had convicted her in September last marks a huge victory for this three-time chief minister of Tamil Nadu who is a virtual cult figure among the poor masses in the State.
Jayalalithaa is a tenacious fighter and few seasoned Tamil Nadu watchers were prepared to write her off knowing her capacity to bounce back when the special court sentenced her to four years in jail. She was disqualified as a legislator and barred from contesting elections but with the High Court judgment now all her rights to hold public office have been restored.
There is not the slightest doubt that she will return as chief minister sooner than later and emerge stronger than ever before, vanquishing her DMK opponents in Assembly elections whenever they are held—after one year as they are scheduled or earlier if she opts for a snap poll to take advantage of the euphoria over her favourable judicial verdict.
Many projects which were riding on this verdict like the inauguration of the much-delayed Metro Rail project in Chennai, opening of 100 Amma canteens across the state and 400 new government buses will now be resurrected. The significant budget session and a Global Investor’s meet which had been postponed twice already will find fruition.
So pervasive is the personality cult in the State that the O. Paneerselvam who was catapulted to the chief ministerial chair because of her compulsion of having to step down is waiting to hand back power to her on a platter with folded hands.
Jayalalithaa’s detractors, principally the DMK bosses, are down in the dumps and are staring at an impending political doom. The BJP at the Centre which has perennially been hoping to encash the equation between ‘Amma’ and Narendra Modi will look up to her for support at the Centre, especially her crucial votes in the Rajya Sabha, where the BJP is well short of a majority.
But Jayalalithaa loathes being taken for granted. If she does extend support to the Modi government she will extract a heavy price for it.
Without doubt, Jayalalithaa’s detractors will appeal against the High Court judgment in the Supreme Court. They believe that the High Court has gravely erred and are hopeful of securing a conviction against her again. But the incorrigible fighter will leave no stone unturned to stay on in power and she has shown that she is no pushover.