The final verdict in an 18-year-old disproportionate assets case against Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalalithaa is going to be delivered in Bangalore soon.
The atmosphere in the Karnataka capital is tense, as thousands of AIADMK workers have thronged the city to show solidarity with their leader.
At least 5,000 policemen as well as paramilitary forces have been deployed to maintain peace. Traffic movement on the roads leading to the court has been affected. Buses and auto-rickshaws have stopped plying in the area.
Jayalalithaa's supporters have put up posters and hoardings over the city, saying, "Hearty welcome to Amma."
Authorities fear violence may hit the city if the court order goes against her.
Jayalalithaa leaves home for Bangalore court, security beefed up
Police are taking no chances as they don’t want a repeat of a February 2000 incident, where three college students were burnt alive in Dharmapuri by AIADMK activists protesting against a special court verdict in which Jayalalithaa was sentenced to one year’s imprisonment.
Police have imposed prohibitory orders under section 144 of the CrPC in the vicinity of the court “to prevent any public disorder and loss of public property”.
Ahead of the crucial judgment, former finance minister and senior AIADMK leader C Ponnaiyan said the entire party was solidly behind Jayalalithaa and that even an adverse outcome in the 18-year old case would not affect either her or the party.
“Everyone knows that it was a case foisted by DMK chief Karunanidhi whose lifelong ambition is to finish off Jayalalithaa politically. He teamed up with (Congress president) Sonia Gandhi in Delhi to fix Jayalalithaa and people understand all this,” Ponnaiyan said.
Jayalalithaa and three associates — her former close friend VK Sasikala, Sasikala’s nephew VN Sudhakaran and sister-in-law J Illavarasi — are accused of acquiring Rs 66.65 crore worth of assets by corrupt means between 1991 and 1996 during her first tenure as CM.
The case was filed by the vigilance wing of the Tamil Nadu police in the same year during the tenure of the DMK government headed by M Karunanidhi.
The judgment, no matter what the outcome is, will hugely affect Tamil Nadu politics. The rejection of corruption charges against Jayalalithaa would further boost her image and add to her political firepower, ahead of the 2016 assembly elections.
An adverse judgment will dent her image and also give a chance for her political opponents to target her on the corruption issue.
The perception in the party is that if she is convicted, senior minister O Paneerselvam, who is known for his loyalty to Amma, would be asked to act as chief minister again.
In September 2001, when the Supreme Court had set aside Jayalalithaa's appointment as CM following her conviction in a corruption case, she had installed Paneerselvam as CM till she was acquitted of charges by the Madras high court.
But some AIADMK sources indicated that she would favour a non-politician this time to keep the seat warm till her return.
“Yes, alternate arrangements have been made, but the only person who knows what they are is Amma," said a senior AIADMK leader.
“Amma has come out in 12 of the 13 cases filed by the DMK. And she will come out of this case also,” another AIADMK leader said.
In case of an adverse judgment, it will be challenged in the Karnataka high court, as it was the appropriate body that had set up the special court to conduct trial in the assets case that was shifted to Bangalore from Chennai, fearing interference from Jayalalithaa.