The news has been greeted with all the colour and pageantry of a Tamil blockbuster. No sooner did word come that Puratchithalaivi — as former chief minister and AIADMK leader J Jayalalithaa — is referred to had been acquitted by the Karnataka High Court in the disproportionate assets case, her followers, who are legion, set off fireworks, took out processions, conducted poojas and danced on the streets.
The acquittal means that Ms Jayalalithaa can now contest the next assembly election. She could also be back in the chief ministerial chair shortly. The incumbent O Panneerselvam is likely to step down ending a short tenure in office marked by policy paralysis.
The state, one of the better run ones in the country, had suffered from lack of governance in the months afterMs Jayalalithaa was forced to quit and Mr Panneerselvam put in charge as a virtual proxy.
The inauguration of the metro rail project was put off as also a crucial foreign investors’ meet as Mr Panneerselvam wanted to wait till Ms Jayalalithaa was made chief minister again.
The state which had excellent human development indicators had also slid in recent times. Ms Jayalalithaa has a reputation for being a good administrator and Tamil Nadu is one state where the bureaucracy functions smoothly.
Hopefully, now that she is back in the political fray with a bang, things will get moving. The AIADMK will also lose no opportunity to lock horns with the DMK which it feels is responsible for hounding Ms Jayalalithaa.
For the government at the Centre, this verdict will come as a welcome step as Ms Jayalalithaa is said to be personally close to Prime Minister Narendra and supportive of the NDA’s policies.
An alliance between the BJP and the AIADMK is something the ruling party would very much like but a lot depends on the volatile Jayalalithaa who has proved a trying partner in the past for those whom her party has had tie-ups with. An alliance would also give the BJP a foothold in the state but it will come at a heavy price if Ms Jayalalithaa’s past bargaining tactics are anything to go by.
The fact that Mr Panneerselvam could not govern shows a weakness in the party, that of not having an effective second rung of leadership. Everything in the party revolves round the personality of Ms Jayalalithaa.
This is not a healthy trend for democracy. Now that she is back and cleared of all charges, she will waste no time in preparing for the assembly elections as the DMK had made some inroads in her absence. In the days to come, we can expect charges and counter charges from the AIADMK and the DMK. But for Amma’s loyal followers, this news has energised them as never before.