EDITORIAL

The Deciding Factor

The much-awaited judgement of the Supreme Court in the disproportiote assets case against Sasikala tarajan was delivered yesterday at about 10:30 a.m.. It will be recalled that this was the case in which the late Jayalalithaa, Sasikala tarajan and two others had been convicted by the trial court on charges of having amassed disproportiote assets of Rs 66 crore during Jayalalithaa’s first term as Chief Minister of Tamil du. Later, an appeal was made before a single-judge bench of the Kartaka High Court which acquitted the accused. Thereafter, the case went up to the Supreme Court. Yesterday, a two-judge bench of the Supreme Court restored the verdict of the trial court and found Sasikala guilty of possessing disproportiote assets. This would mean that Sasikala would have to serve a prison term of up to four years and also pay a fine of Rs 10 crore. She would be disqualified from contesting any elections for six years. The Supreme Court has also ordered her to surrender immediately. The deciding factor has been the Supreme Court verdict, and it has been in conformity with the general expectations of the people.

The activities of Sasikala and her supporter MLAs of the last few weeks should serve to underscore how the electoral norms of India can stoke irratiol political ambitions and even eble people to garner support for such ambitions. As we said earlier in this column, Sasikala had neither the experience nor the political acumen of Jayalalithaa to be her successor in a front-ranking State like Tamil du. In fact, Sasikala is on record as having expressed her lack of political ambition when Jayalalithaa was alive. But opportunities can change people’s perceptions and stoke the most irratiol ambitions. After the passing away of Jayalalithaa, Sasikala was quite categorical about her determition to be the Chief Minister of Tamil du. This is certainly not surprising. What is surprising is that someone like Sasikala should be able to claim the support of 120 legislators in a House that requires a simple majority of 118. At the same time, there are clear indications of the fear of failing to sustain that support in the face of adverse circumstances. After the Supreme Court verdict, she has appointed E.Palanisamy, a former minister, as her proxy. In fact, her hurry to have the trial of strength on the floor of the House must have stemmed from a desire to become Chief Minister before the Supreme Court verdict ruined her chances. It is quite possible that she even expected to be able to stall Tuesday’s verdict of the Supreme Court somehow if she could become Chief Minister before the verdict was announced. She must have feared that the support of her captive MLAs could disappear once the apex court’s verdict was pronounced. That is what must have prompted her to keep all her supporters captive at the beach resort near Mahabalipuram. What most people are likely to ask is what the legislators supporting her saw in her leadership as to prefer her to several other better qualified MLAs who must have been available to be leader of the AIADMK legislature party. Why did they have to pick someone who was not even an MLA? And so a puerile political game that must have cost quite a few crores of rupees is being carried on even after the bursting of the bubble. Governor Vidyasagar Rao deserves full marks for refusing to heed the demands of urgency that Sasikala was making for a trial of strength on the floor of the Assembly. In fact, he would do well to wait for a few more days before the trial of strength since the situation is still somewhat fluid and capable of changing, if for no other reason, because the majority of Sasikala’s supporters would be embarrassed to admit that they might have made an error of judgement in picking a leader who had a very major court verdict awaiting over an earlier misconduct.