The Tamil Nadu assembly has two years of its tenure left and in that time political parties like the Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party will try to revive their political fortunes. The DMK too will look to make a comeback in the huge vacuum left by Jayalalithaa from the political stage of Tamil Nadu politics…
Jayalalithaa, former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, recently become the first Chief Minister to be convicted in a corruption case and after Parliament passed the new law on corruption. Jayalalithaa and her aides were booked under Section 13(2) and 13(2)(e) of the prevention of corruption act for allegedly amassing accounted wealth worth Rs 66.5 crore. The case was transferred to Karnataka following a Supreme Court directive. Eighteen years after the case was registered by Dr Subramanian Swamy, a special court, pronounced Jayalalithaa guilty of corruption. DMK leader M Karunanidhi, when he was Chief Minister, had gathered evidence against Jayalalithaa and pursued the case.
The charges are of amassing more than 2,000 acres of land, 30 kgs of gold, 12,000 sarees and other assets. The court sentenced her to 4 years in jail, a hefty Rs 100 (Rs 1 billion) crore fine, and she stands disqualified for 10 years. She cannot contest an election or become an MLA. A person is disqualified from contesting election if s/he is sentenced to more than two years in prison. However, ‘as she has been sentenced to 4 years in prison, her disqualification period begins after that for 6 years, totaling the next 10 years of her life, which may indicate that her legislative career in politics is over for the time being.’ Along with her, her trusted aide Sasikala Natarajan and three others have also been convicted and sentenced.
The Tamil Nadu assembly has two years of its tenure left and in that time political parties like the Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party will try to revive their political fortunes. The DMK too will look to make a comeback in the huge vacuum left by Jayalalithaa from the political stage of Tamil Nadu politics. Since the investigation has been monitored by the Supreme Court — it was on the apex court’s directions that a special court was set up in Karnataka and not in Tamil Nadu — Jayalalithaa has had to approach the Karnataka high court for bail. Another former Chief Minister jailed for corruption — Om Parkash Chautala — has not yet secured bail and continues to be imprisoned in Delhi’s Tihar jail. Legal luminaries say that even if her imprisonment is later set aside and she comes out on bail, her conviction cannot be set aside. From the moment the judge signed the order she ceased to be Chief Minister since she stands disqualified. Jayalalithaa’s conviction is a game changer for Tamil Nadu and the repercussions of the judgment will change the State’s politics for a long time to come.
Between the time the disproportionate assets case was filed in 1997 and now, the mood of the Indian voter, including those in Tamil Nadu, had changed over meting out punishment to corrupt politicians and bureaucrats. It also remains to be seen how Jaya is able to pay up such a huge fine, from cash or property surrender, for obtaining bail. Other questions also remain. If and when bail is granted, will Jaya be ordered to stay put under the jurisdiction of the Karnataka high court, and not being allowed to work out of Chennai? This could mean problems for Jayalalithaa remote-controlling a shadow Chief Minister when she is away. It is unlike in the past, when a non-Minister in O Pannerselvam found himself in the Chief Minister’s seat after her conviction in the TANSI case, ahead of the 2001 assembly polls.
But the Rs 100 crore question is: Can such a CM lead the party to a repeat of its unprecedented electoral victory in 2014 in the assembly polls of 2016 — assuming that Jayalalithaa is not out and in TN to lead the AIADMK poll campaign? Some political pundits believe that the verdict will work to Jayalalithaa’s advantage.
The AIADMK chief could whip up a sympathy wave and run a remote control Government for the rest of her Government’s tenure, experts said. Considering the state of disarray that the opposition — the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam — is in, Jayalalithaa could escape unscathed in case of a guilty verdict, they added. Some also expect the Bharatiya Janata Party to make inroads in the State, which has predominantly been governed by Dravidian parties.
Even during the 2014 Lok Sabha election campaigns, the BJP had tied up with fringe parties like the Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, Pattali Makkal Katchi and the Desiya Morpokku Dravida Kazhagam. Then, the alliance had failed to dent the AIADMK which secured 37 out of the 39 parliamentary seats. However, the guilty verdict for Jayalalithaa could see the alliance crawling back into contention. All these developments are bound to create ripples in Tamil Nadu’s political climate.
-With inputs from agencies and rediff