Come Monday and judgement day will be upon not just former chief minister Jayalalithaa but the ruling AIADMK and the entire political spectrum of Tamil Nadu.
At 11am on May 11, Justice CR Kumarasamy of the Karnataka high court is expected to rule on Jayalalithaa’s appeal in the disproportionate assets case.
Jayalalithaa was convicted of holding assets worth Rs 58 crores that were disproportionate to her known sources of income and sentenced to four years in prison term and directed to pay a fine of Rs 100 crore last September.
Her close aide Sasikala and Sasikala’s relatives Sudhakaran and Elavarasi too were convicted in the same case and fined Rs 10 crores each. The trial court in Bengaluru convicted them after a trial lasting 18 long years.
Tamil Nadu is in pause mode with all eyes on the verdict on Monday. For it will decide the fate not just of Jayalalithaa and her co-accused, but that of the other Dravidian behemoth, the DMK, and a beleaguered opposition in the state.
Scenario 1: If conviction is upheld
"This will cause serious damage to the AIADMK if her conviction upheld," said C Lakshmanan, professor at the Madras Institute of Development Studies.
"If the leader is unable to contest elections for 10 years, then it will be difficult for her to control cadre and party. It will amount to a huge setback for the AIADMK. It will be difficult to build the morale and spirit of cadres," he said.
While the AIADMK refuses to speculate on the possibility of the conviction being upheld, the DMK is saying its own prayers.
"This government should go and a conviction will give the proper message to the people on corruption," said KS Radhakrishnan, a spokesperson for the DMK. "DMK is the only main party other than AIADMK. Groundwork is being done within and the party is getting ready for what needs to be done in the state."
Analysts feel that while the DMK will in fact gain in this scenario, the party’s worries are not quite over. The 2G and Aircel-Maxis ogres continue to haunt them.
"There will be some relief for DMK as they are the only alternative in Tamil Nadu," said Lakshmanan. "Whether the DMK will be able to capture the gap is something the party will have to work on."
The BJP, despite having little presence in the state, is confident that it will emerge as an alternative in this situation.
"If the Centre is particular about finishing off corruption cases against all politicians in the country within this year as promised, then the 2G and Aircel-Maxis case will all be concluded before elections," said H Raja, a BJP national secretary.
"So in all probability, the first family of DMK and other close families will all wind up in jail. If Jayalalithaa is also convicted, Tamil Nadu will face a situation where the two main parties will be incapacitated because all the main leaders will be facing problems. So a third force will come into play. In this situation, the BJP will stand to be the biggest gainer," he explained.
Scenario 2: If acquitted
There is consensus across party lines in the state that in case of an acquittal, Jayalalithaa will be back and how!
"It will be a big blow to all opposition parties," said Lakshmanan. "It will be a nightmare for all of them. If Jayalalithaa is acquitted, AIADMK might have a cakewalk in the 2016 elections. The BJP may not be able to even imagine a hold in Tamil Nadu in their lifetime unless they completely surrender to Amma. She will come back with a big bang," he said.
The AIADMK is hopeful of an acquittal – they want their Amma back in the chief minister’s seat as soon as possible. "We are very hopeful that there will be an acquittal," said Rabi Bernard, an AIADMK Rajya Sabha MP and a party spokesperson.
"When this happens, Madam will become chief minister. There are only nine to ten months to go for elections. The state will go into election mode. Madam will take charge of all election and campaign activities," he said.
The DMK refuses to entertain such a possibility. "Prima facie there is a case made out of corruption by Jayalalithaa," said Radhakrishnan. "There is no doubt that there is a proper case made out."
The BJP too is watching closely. "If Jayalalithaa returns as chief minister, it would boost the morale of the AIADMK cadres and the public," explained H Raja. "She enjoyed public support when she was chief minister. That is why this judgement will be a watershed judgement in Tamil Nadu politics."
One politician, one verdict – the future of Tamil Nadu politics could well be rewritten, no matter what the outcome is on Monday in the Karnataka high court.
(Sandhya Ravishankar is an independent journalist based in Chennai)