She returned within six months after the high court overturned her conviction by the trial court in the Tansi land purchase case. That was 2002.
Times and the laws have changed since and making a comeback now will not be as easy, although Jayalalithaa’s grip on her party is firmer than ever and her electoral might has just been proved in the Lok Sabha elections.
“The courts are viewing corruption by politicians more severely, as has been proved by the conviction of Om Prakash Chautala and Lalu Prasad. So Judge D’Cunha’s verdict should come as no surprise as he wanted to send a strong signal about corruption in high places and the tendency of such powerful people dragging such cases for eternity. If she had completed the case much earlier without fighting the system, the courts could have been more lenient,” observed a former advocate general.
AIADMK functionaries are confident their chief is capable of converting setbacks into opportunities.
“We would be able to reach out to the people, and the harsh prison term and Rs 100-crore fine will only evoke sympathy for her. The verdict will not deter Amma’s mission to roll out a slew of welfare projects to help the poor. Even if she is not in power there will be more Amma welfare schemes leaving the public in no doubt who to thank for,” party spokesperson Avadi Kumar said.
Jayalalithaa needs to convince the people that she is away from the helm only for a short while and by voting for the AIADMK in 2016, they will be voting for her return at a later date. Meanwhile she will have to fight for her acquittal at the earliest, something difficult in a wealth case when the onus of proof rests with the accused to explain where she got the money. Unless she surmounts these two challenges, Jayalalithaa might be staring at a bleak political future.
At 66 and highly diabetic, she also needs to worry about her health and the absence of a successor in the AIADMK. While a resurgent DMK will try to isolate her by wooing other parties into an alliance, the BJP will be tempted to explore its chances when the AIADMK is not at its strongest. Not the rosiest of pictures for Amma, who looked unassailable till recently.