What Does Jayalalitha’s Arrest Mean For Tamil Nadu’s Politics, And Democracy

Posted on September 27, 2014 in Politics

By Mayank Jain and Meghana Rathore:

The 18-year-old Disproportionate Assets Case against AIADMK supremo , J Jayalalitha culminated today at 3 p.m. after a special court summoned for trial declared its verdict and sentenced the leader for a term of 4 years in jail and a fine of Rs. 100 crore.  In addition to Jayalalitha, three others including her close aide Sasikala Natarajan, her niece Ilavarasi and her nephew and the chief minister’s disowned foster son Sudhakaran were sentenced to a 4 year term.


This case was first brought to the notice of the courts back in 1996 by Dr. Subramaniam Swamy (now a member of Bharatiya Janata Party) who had accused her of misplacing properties worth Rs. 66.65 crores disproportionate to her income sources during her first term (1991-1996).  A prosecution was hence launched and she was chargesheeted along with 3 other people in 1997. The trial was transferred to Karnataka in 2003 on grounds of speculations regarding an unfair trial in Tamil Nadu since she happened to be such a popular leader apart from being a popular actress (over 140 appearances in movies) of the yesteryears before she joined politics.

Legal implications: Doors of politics closed for the next 10 years

Jayalalitha can appeal to a higher court since it’s just a special court’s verdict. However if the conviction stands, under the Representation of People’s Act, the doors of the legislature stay shut for her for the next 10 years which include 4 years in jail and 6 years thereafter. Even if the sentence is done away with , the question of her eligibility as a legislator stays. The power to allow/disallow her rests with the HC. These legal ramifications of this verdict have been explained thoroughly by The Hindu here.

Violence hit the streets of Tamil Nadu after the verdict was announced. Effigies of DMK president M. Karunanidhi were burnt and stones were pelted at Dr. Subramanian Swamy’s residence. The angry mob took to streets against these two as they brought up the case to the notice of the courts back in 1996. Also, Jayalalitha made a statement regarding the discourse of events being a political vendetta. This verdict has certainly cast a spell of uncertainty over the political career of the 66-year-old leader in the state. This came as a shock and spells frenzy for the hitherto complacent AIADMK leaders.

After the disqualification of Rasheed Masood from the Rajya Sabha last year and Lalu Prasad Yadav’s conviction in the fodder scam case in 2013 and his subsequent disqualification from Lok Sabha, Amma’s disqualification comes as a big surprise and a bigger blow to the politics of Tamil Nadu. Dravidian parties in the region including AIADMK and DMK are popular for their inclusive and non-divisive politics that focus more around human development than anything else. The ruling party have lost their key leader to jail for 4 years which will prove to be a blow for AIADMK while opening up a small window of opportunity for the DMK to sneak in when the guard isn’t watching.

On the other hand, however, it proves to be another win for democracy, though a little too late. Even a CM and the much adored figure wasn’t spared the rod when she committed wrong and justice was finally delivered in the case filed in 1996 . Earlier too, she was dethroned in 2001 after  having been convicted in two other corruption case. Also, being one of the first Chief Ministers to be found guilty under the terms of Prevention of Corruption Act, surely does not earn her a credible reputation. However in the long drawn trial, Jayalalitha proved to be a better person and definitely a better chief minister than her counterparts. From maternity kits, canteens to socially inclusive schemes for the poor, she was mostly on track on the agenda she ran in the polls with. But, the arrest will definitely prove to be a speed breaker on the otherwise smooth highway the ruling party had managed to build since 2011.

What happens next in the politics remains to be seen but for now, democracy has triumphed over injustice and Tamil Nadu will want a better leader to take the now vacant chair of the Chief Minister. As Nietzsche rightly said, “Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster.”