The conviction of J Jayalaithaa, AIADMK supremo and former chief minister of Tamil Nadu, in an 18-year-old disproportionate assets case, is, on one hand, an unequivocal assertion of the law of the land, while, on the other, is a huge setback for the southern siren’s political innings. The sentencing – four years in prison and Rs 100 crore in fine – is the toughest whip that has been cracked on any politician so far, and clearly comes at a time when Jaya was at her peak, enjoying a winning spree since 2011 assembly elections and the superlative 37 out of 39 seats in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. With her Amma brand reconfiguring welfare economics in her home state, the leader had handled industry, pro-people schemes and sops from the Centre well, walking the tightrope, while relishing her ties with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Even though the Bangalore special court’s decision can be stayed or overturned by a higher court once Jaya appeals, it will be at least six months to one year till she lawfully regains the official leash of AIADMK affairs. Her resignation as CM notwithstanding, six years of not holding any assembly post after being disqualified as an MLA in case the conviction is upheld by a higher court, would certainly spell a long period of drought for this 66-year-old politician. However, let’s not forget Jaya has braved setbacks in the past and she had managed to regain all the squandered trust from the public, who, at present, have deified her to godhead.
As distraught and grieving AIADMK cadres go on a rampage, and O Panneerselvam takes over as the acting chief minister in wake of Jaya’s stepping down, we need to ask the relevant questions. Given that Jaya has been convicted almost two decades after the charges – of her possessing Rs 66 crore worth disproportionate assets – were accepted in a court of law, we must examine if this is a precedent for the much greater crimes and bigger scams that have been unearthed in the last five years. With Coalgate, 2G telecom scam, VVIP chopper scam, other mining scams, land scams and countless other instances of rampant fraudulence being under investigation at present, what is going to be the outcome of those probes? Inasmuch as tens of thousands of crores have been bungled and lost as precious government revenue, what should be the quantum of sentencing for those, rather staggering, alleged crimes, once proven in the court of law? Jaya’s many pro-poor policies, her social welfare initiatives, the canteens, mineral water, cement, banks and other subsidized services run under the Amma banner, would however testify to this siren’s excellent skills as an administrator. It seems only the pickpockets get thrown behind the bars in a country ruled by robbers.