Tamil Nadu politics has taken a dramatic twist with AIADMK General Secretary V K Sasikala convicted by the Supreme Court in disproportionate assets case on Tuesday, restoring the judgement of a trial court in Bengaluru which held her and two other accused, guilty.
Sasikala and her relatives, V N Sudhakaran and Elavarasi were sentenced to four years imprisonment with a fine of Rs 10 crore each. O Paneerselvam was made the stop-gap Chief Minister after Jayalalitha’s death in December and Sasikala had been maneuvering the party leadership eyeing the chair of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister. The apex court verdict has crushed her aspirations of becoming the CM. Sasikala cannot contest elections for ten years with all the high-voltage political drama unfolded in the state eventually sealing her fate. She and others convicted will have to surrender to the trail court immediately. Despite the possibilities of a review petition being filed against the Supreme Court verdict, it’s least likely to effect the ruling.
Sasikala along with her mentor, Jayalalitha was found guilty of amassing illegal wealth to the tune of Rs 66 crore by the Bengaluru trial court. The SC verdict on Tuesday set aside the Karnataka High Court judgement on May 11, 2015 that acquitted both women in the 19-year old disproportionate assets case and upheld the conviction of the trial court, which it found to be ‘flawless’. Jayalalitha who resumed office as the Chief Minister after her acquittal was also directed to return the assets. Had Jayalalitha been alive, the SC verdict would have been applicable to her as well. When the Karnataka government approached the apex court with the appeal seeking stay on the High Court verdict, little did anyone anticipate that it would lead to a landmark and a historic verdict much awaited by the nation.
‘Chinnamma’ might not have expected such an abrupt end to her ‘high-velocity’ ploys to replace ‘Amma’. But things took a drastic turn foiling her efforts. Paneerselvam always took charge of the state whenever Jayalalitha was forced to take a breather following corruption charges. He was sworn in as the caretaker Chief Minister when Jayalalitha was hospitalised and continued after her death. He soon submitted his resignation to make way for Sasikala to become the Chief Minister of the state. It was then that Paneerselvam took an unexpected U-turn making attempts to grab power and become the power centre of the party revolting against Sasikala and shattering her aspirations.
Many have suspected the influence of invisible forces behind such a move of his. How far Paneerselvam will succeed in bringing majority of the legislators to his side is yet to be seen. For him, the sharp blow to Sasikala in the form of SC verdict has eliminated his political opponent once and for all. Sasikala who has been plotted moves to become the CM will now be going to prison. Those who believe in democratic values are the ones who are much rejoiced by this irony. The judiciary has given a smack to her arrogance of having an intense desire to pull the reins of power, strongly convinced that the reason of being Jayalalitha’s companion all her life and binami was enough to be her political successor.
Sasikala expelled Paneerselvam from the party and made Edappadi K Palanisamy, a loyalist, the leader of the legislature party after the court verdict, hoping to pull the strings from behind the curtain. How far this would be successful couldn’t be predicted. The question is whether the 125 legislators who have been sequestered for over ten days in the Golden Bay Resort in Koovathur, would switch sides in the current scenario. Given that the twists and turns in the Tamil Nadu politics are creating waves even at the national level, the calculations of the political observers might misfire. The apparent deliberate delaying of swearing in Sasikala by Governor Vidyasagar Rao and eventually the latest Supreme Court verdict have plunged the Tamil Nadu politics into a quagmire. Even though the ruling would end Sasikala’s political future, it would take time to set right the state’s politics.