Jayalalithaa’s acquittal stuns rivals

Jayalalithaa’s acquittal stuns rivals
A huge cloud over the ruling AIADMK(All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam) in Tamil Nadu has dramatically vanished into thin air, with the Karnataka High Court’s acquittal of J Jayalalithaa, the former Chief Minister, of charges in the Disproportionate Assets case. 

The verdict delivered on May 11 by Justice C R Kumaraswamy, allowing the appeals of Jayalalithaa and three of her associates, against their conviction and sentence by a lower court last September, clears the way for  Jayalalithaa to resume her leadership of the Tamil Nadu Government. 

The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, hoping for the High Court’s upholding of  Jayalalithaa’s conviction, had been in desperate search of allies for the 2016 Assembly elections. This was with the explicit intention of making a combined onslaught on the AIADMK’s stranglehold over Tamil Nadu politics once and for all. 

Other smaller Dravidian parties and the BJP had their own political ambitions and electoral calculations, with the Congress tempted to go with the DMK once again. The Bharatiya Janata Party on its part is counting on its huge membership drive and anti-incumbency factor. This despite the fact that its allies in Lok Sabha elections have virtually deserted the National Democratic Alliance(NDA). 

None of these parties could conceal their shock at the outcome of the protracted and nearly two-decade legal battle going finally in favour of the AIADMK leader, except for G K Vasan, leader of the Tamil Manila Congress, who said the judgement should be “respected” and not “politicised”. With the high court judgement, all the parties would now be forced to effectively re-think their plans. 

As soon as the election results were announced massive “victory” celebrations erupted throughout Tamil Nadu, given the AIADMK hold and the near god-like celebrity status enjoyed by ‘Amma’, whose Poes Gardens residence was besieged by crowds chanting triumphant slogans.  AIADMK leaders said that the verdict represented a victory for “Truth, Justice and Dharma”. 

Tamil Nadu was in a state of tension since the morning, not knowing which way the result would go. Justice Kumaraswamy’s instant pronouncement of the verdict through his lengthy order triggered wild scenes of joyous relief for the crowds assembled near the Court and across Tamil Nadu with flashes pouring in via the electronic media.

M K Stalin,  A Raja and T K Elangovan, senior DMK leaders, had huddled at M. Karunaidhi’s residence awaiting the verdict.  That they were rudely disappointed at the outcome was evident.  Subramaniam Swamy, who had at one stage impleaded himself, in this case,  said he had been “shocked” by the judgement. 

The DMK leader M. Karunanidhi hopes that the Special Prosecutor of the Karnataka Government, in this case, B K Acharya would pursue the matter further with the higher court.  Swamy has said if the Karnataka Government would go for a reference to higher levels, he could make himself a party.

Chief Minister, O Panneerselvam is now expected to make way for his party leader Jayalalithaa and resume leadership of the State government. AIADMK legislative party meeting was held today to celebrate the outcome and await guidance from Jayalalithaa. 

The AIADMK leader herself in a brief statement later in the day said that the verdict was “validation of truth and justice” and that she had not done anything wrong. She alleged that the case was a conspiracy hatched by Mr Karunanidhi’s DMK which wanted to “destroy” AIADMK but “God has willed otherwise”. 

Considering the day-long programmes of worship and special ‘pujas’ in temples in several parts of Tamil Nadu over the last two days for the success for the AIADMK leader, it may not be far-fetched to assume that the much sought-for divine Intervention had worked in their favour. 

Justice Kumaraswamy headed a Special Bench of the Karnataka High Court which was constituted as directed by the Supreme Court to hold a continuous hearing of Jayalalithaa’s appeal against conviction and sentence, along with three others, and complete it within three months. 

While this process was nearly complete by end March, the DMK leader  K Anbazhagan had moved a petition challenging the AIADMK Government’s earlier appointment of Mr Bhavani Singh as special public prosecutor, instead of the Karnataka Government making its own appointment. 

The apex court struck down that appointment and the Karnataka Government named B K Acharya as Special Public Prosecutor but his submission had to be done in writing within a day. The 3-judge bench of the Supreme Court, however, had ruled there would be no re-hearing of the appeal and that the verdict would be delivered by May 12, as set before.

Opposition parties in Tamil Nadu were counting on a number of factors to work in their favour as the Panneerselvam Government had not initiated any new welfare programmes over the six months since. Jayalalithaa stepped down, following her conviction in September 2014. They also hurled charges of corruption, failure to maintain law and order and deferring of major events like the inauguration of Chennai Metro awaiting for their supreme leader to come out of the case. 

Jayalalithaa said that the political conspiracy of DMK against her had been foiled and warned that people would not be misled by their propaganda.

S Sethuraman

S Sethuraman

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