Jayalalitha’s acquittal: State & National Implications

AIADMK supremo and former Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalalithaa got a major reprieve today when the Karnataka high court acquitted her of all corruption charges against her in the 19 year old Disproportionate Case. BJP leader Subramanian Swamy had filed this case in 1996 and had alleged that Jaya had amassed unaccounted wealth of Rs. 65-crore. Jayalalithaa was convicted in this case by the Bengaluru special court and given a sentence of four years in jail and fine of Rs 100 crore in 2014. However, High Court judge Justice C R Kumaraswamy overturned the Sep. 2014 verdict and acquitted Jayalalitha in this case.

This decision of the high court holds a lot of political importance in the state of Tamil Nadu. Besides it also has many dimensions to it.

Can justice be purchased?

Soon after the verdict given by the Mumbai high court in Salman Khan Case, acquittal of Jayalalitha poses some serious questions regarding the credibility of our judicial system. When such so-called high profile accused people are given a clean chit by the higher courts overturning the order of lower courts; it is very natural for people to question the credibility of the judicial system.

The court order has been reversed means the lower court judge gave a wrong judgement. After 19 years the judge in lower court gave a wrong order. Ridiculous. Does the appraisal system of judges take into account how many times a particular judge’s order has been reversed by a higher court? And this is not enough. You never know the supreme court may overturn high court order acquittal. Picture abhi baaki hai dost!

Corruption has never been an issue in Indian politics!

In Indian politics, corruption is not a big issue. Voters have voted for people embroiled in corruption cases. There are many examples – Lalu Yadav, Shibu Soren, Maran, Ashok Chavan and many more. Corruption is a way of life in India and does not impact political fortunes of netas in India.

What does it mean for politics in Tamil Nadu?

Jaya is free and all set to come back as CM of the state. She is back with a bang. DMK which had got a boost after her conviction is seen on a back foot again. For the past 30 years or so, people of T. Nadu have followed a very predictable pattern and given chance to AIADMK / DMK (the two major state parties) on an alternative basis to form state govt.  State elections are due in 2016. Going by the trend it is the chance of DMK this time. However, given corruption cases against DMK ministers, tension between Karunanidhi’s two sons and drubbing in Lok Sabha it seemed that Jaya will make a comeback until she was convicted. After her conviction DMK seemed to be gaining ground as Jaya would have been barred from fighting elections. But now Jaya again has the edge. Will she call for early elections? She may do so to take advantage of the current situation and sympathy in her favour.

What is the role of BJP in this verdict?

Jaya has always been a favourite of the top BJP brass. Despite she being responsible for the fall of 13 month Vajpayee govt. in 1999, BJP dumped DMK and allied with AIADMK in 2004. This was one of the main reasons for BJP / NDA loss in 2004 despite India Shining. This because she is perceived to be closer to BJP’s Hindutava ideology.

BJP desperately wanted her to be in NDA before Lok Sabha polls but she didn’t budge as she had PM ambitions. BJP is on a weak position in Rajya Sabha and opposition alleges this could be one of the quid pro quo deals to elicit her support. AIADMK has 11 members in upper house. If she joins NDA eyebrows will be raised.

Though Subramanian Swamy, who is also one of the petitioners in this case against Jayalalitha is in BJP now and has promised that he will appeal in higher courts; state BJP President stated that party has not interfered in this or any other court judgments.

BJP performed well in Lok Sabha and bagged 2 seats along with its allies in Lok Sabha in Tamil Nadu. It formed a social coalition of DMDK, PMK, MDMK etc. It has to decide for itself whether it wants to occupy the opposition space in Tamil Nadu as DMK has become weak or play second fiddle to Jaya in the state.

Will Supreme Court give its stamp of approval to High Court order in this case? Will AIADMK join NDA? Will Jaya provide support to NDA in Rajya Sabha on important legislation? Will she call for early elections? Interesting times ahead….

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