The Kartaka High Court has given its verdict. And it is a verdict expected to have far-reaching ramifications not only for politics in Tamil du politics, but in New Delhi as well. With J Jayalalitha acquitted of the disproportiote assets case, the decks are now clear for her return as Chief Minister. The administration in Tamil du has been virtually paralysed as the deadline imposed by the Supreme Court for Kartaka HC to deliver its judgement by 12 May came closer. The outlook appeared gloomy for the AIADMK supremo with the apex court setting aside the appointment of the Tamil du public prosecutor. The opposition party DMK had argued before the Supreme Court that since the case had been shifted from Tamil du to Kartaka, it should have been the Kartaka government’s prerogative to appoint a public prosecutor for the high-profile case; instead it was the Tamil du government which appointed a public prosecutor who allegedly colluded with Jayalalitha’s defence counsel and did not argue the case strongly in court. The Supreme Court not only asked the Kartaka HC to ignore the written arguments of the Tamil du public prosecutor, it also directed only the written submissions of the DMK and those of the state of Kartaka be taken into account. Pointing to corruption as the biggest malady faced by the country which affects everyone in society, the Supreme Court had exhorted the Kartaka HC to ‘dispassiotely render a judgement which is objectively and resolutely expressed.’ Now the High Court has overturned the verdict of guilty handed down by the trial court in September last year, disqualifying her as an MLA. This was in relation to a case filed by the CBI in 1997 after seizing large quantities of gold, silver and other valuables from her residence.
With Jayalalitha unexpectedly off the hook now, she will be back in command but must be re-elected to the Assembly within six months. That is when she is expected to play her trump card of calling early elections, with the Assembly elections due next year. If the BJP government at the Centre cooperates with her which seems likely in return for the AIADMK support in the Rajya Sabha, Jayalalitha may yet win another huge mandate in Tamil du. She has already dubbed her acquittal as a legal and moral victory in the face of machitions by the DMK. In fact, the interlly fractured DMK is itself bracing for anxious times in four months when the verdict in the 2G spectrum case by the special CBI court is due. DMK chief M Karunidhi’s daughter Kanimozhi and senior leader A Raja are the prime accused in this case. Karunidhi’s grand nephews, the Maran brothers, are also embroiled in the Aircel Maxis deal and a CBI case. It is also doubtful whether other political parties can come together to mount an effective challenge to a rejuveted Jayalalitha, with PMK leader Anbumani Ramadoss, DMDK leader Vijayakanth and MDMK leader Vaiko all known to be nursing chief-ministerial ambitions. If the BJP remains content as a minor player in Tamil du, the Jayalalitha juggerut may again be unstoppable. For her, the only dark cloud in the horizon will be the shifting of legal action to the Supreme Court, with a determined Dr Subramanian Swamy announcing he will appeal against the Kartaka HC verdict. Presently a BJP leader, it was Dr Swamy who had filed a private complaint in 1996 under the Prevention of Corruption Act 1988 in a Cheni court, charging Jayalalitha of having accumulated assets disproportiote to her declared sources of income during her Chief Ministerial tenure of 1991-96. Jayalalitha walks free for now, but her legal battles are still far from over.