It has stretched for 18 long years.
It has been tried in two states. And now, the long arm of the law has closed in on AIADMK supremo J Jayalalithaa. She has been convicted in the long-pending disproportionate assets case, sentenced for four years and fined a staggering `100 crore.
The special court in Bangalore also convicted Jayalalithaa’s close aide Sasikala Natarajan, her niece Illavarasi and her nephew and Jayalalithaa’s disowned foster son Sudhakaran. With the conviction, Amma, as her supporters call her, becomes the first chief minister to be convicted under the Prevention of Corruption Act.
She may be out of the electoral reckoning for a good long time, though she has been known to roar back on many an occasion.
How will this verdict change — if at all it does — the political landscape of Tamil Nadu? Her party, the AIADMK, will surely take a beating and this is a shot in the arm for rival political parties.
But this does not mean that there will be a political vacuum in the state.
It will take some deft footwork by both regional and national parties to cash in on last week’s conviction.
However, none seem to have their house in order in the state.
Though the DMK has moved past the sibling rivalry phase that at one point seemed to hobble the party, it is yet to recover from the drubbing it received in the Lok Sabha elections.
The BJP and the Congress are yet to find their feet in Dravidian politics. DMDK chief Vijayakanth will benefit to an extent but it remains to be seen if he can convert that advantage into seats in the assembly.
The DMK stands to gain the most but it has many hurdles to overcome.
Finance minister O Panneerselvam who replaces Jayalalithaa as chief minister can be expected to continue Amma’s policies and, in all likelihood, take dictation from Poes Garden.
In 2001, when she had to step down, it was O Panneerselvam again who was appointed Tamil Nadu chief minister. There is no second-rung leadership in the party, it is Amma all the way. In the short-run, this will help her, but it could weaken the party in the long-run.
But the conviction sends out a clear message: No one is above the law, not even the Empress of Poes Garden who has in recent times seemed invincible.