The acquittal of AIADMK chief J Jayalalithaa in the disproportionate assets case dramatically changed political equations in Tamil Nadu as Monday’s court verdict gave a leg-up to the ruling party to correct a perception of policy paralysis and opt for snap polls.
The party supremo is set to return as chief minister, taking over from loyalist O Pannerselvam who was keeping the seat warm till the time she came out clean.
“Amma will become the chief minister. Will remain the chief minister after the elections (due next year) … she will win all the 234 seats.
There is absolutely no opposition to the AIADMK at all,” party spokesperson CR Saraswati said outside Jayalalithaa’s Poes Garden home.
Jayalalithaa had to quit as she was automatically disqualified from public posts after a trial court last September convicted and sentenced her to four years in jail in the disproportionate assets case.
She appointed Panneerselvam to fill in her shoes but his rule has been marred by a situation similar to the so-called policy paralysis of UPA-II at the Centre.
Now that the party’s stocks went up manifold on Monday, sources in political circles said Jayalalithaa could try to shed the poor governance tag the party had earned, when she was not around, before going for polls.
Historian and political commentator AR Venkatachalapathy could foresee a “distinct possibility of snap polls” in the state. “She might want to sort out governance issues, deal with corruption by ministers and unleash some welfare programmes before calling for snap polls to cash in on the tremendous goodwill the verdict has generated,” he said.
“She won 37 Lok Sabha seats and 44% votes (in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls). She might want to take the plunge now, at a time the rival DMK is down in the dumps and has its own corruption cases to deal with. With the Opposition divided, it might lead to a bigger win.”
The DMK was too stunned to react: other than a cryptic statement from party chief M Karunanidhi that this “is not a final verdict”, it chose to keep mum.
The BJP, which wants to be an alternative to the two Dravidian parties in the state, was more forthcoming. “They (AIADMK) may go in for snap polls given the win-win situation that seems to exist, but the BJP will present a third alternative in front of Tamil Nadu’s voters,” said senior BJP leader L Ganesan.
The AIADMK was surprisingly silent on its future course of action, let alone talk about snap polls. “Ours is a single-leader party and only Amma can decide on anything,” party spokesperson Saraswati said.
Party MLAs have been asked to be present at the AIADMK headquarters in Chennai to formally elect Jayalalithaa on Tuesday as the leader of the legislative party, the first step to the chief minister’s chair.