India: TN CM O Panneerselvam to resign, enabling acquitted Jayalalithaa to assume power in Tamil Nadu
-Dr. Abdul Ruff
As J Jayalalithaa, the former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, has been acquitted in a corruption case that had led to her being jailed she can now return to Madras Fort office. Current CM O Panneerselvam, who was hand-picked and installed by Ms Jayalalithaa when she had to step down after being convicted in September last year , is expected to resign soon. Bangalore High Court, declaring her innocent, in fact empowered Jayalalithaa to declare herself now to be “pure gold refined by fire”
That verdict meant that she was disqualified as an elected representative and obliged to step down as Chief Minister. Today’s acquittal paves the way for her return to office, but she will have to contest elections within six months.
Ms Jayalalithaa is likely to be sworn in as Tamil Nadu chief minister on May 17, an auspicious date according to sources in her party, the AIADMK and the date was already announced on facebook even a week before the judgment was officially delivered by Hon. Judge of Karnataka High Court, Kumaraswami, also belonging to Tamil Nadu. According to reports, the judge today declared Jayalalithaa not guilty within 10 seconds. Three others who had been convicted along with her, including close aide Sasikala Natarajan, have also been acquitted without wasting time. .
Once Panneerselvam resigns, the AIADMK is expected to elect Ms Jayalalithaa as leader of its legislative party, after which she can ask the state governor to swear in her new government. “Wait for an announcement from the Chief Minister’s office,” her party said, amid ecstatic celebrations in Chennai.
Panneerselvam met Ms Jayalalithaa at her Chennai residence soon after the High Court upheld her appeal against her conviction by a trial court. The conviction meant she was disqualified as a lawmaker and will have to contest elections within six months of being sworn in as Chief Minister. There is buzz that she could choose to have early elections called in Tamil Nadu, where assembly polls are due next year.
The AIADMK calculates that her legal victory today will lead to gains for it if elections are held now. Ms Jayalalithaa had led the party to a massive win in the 2011 assembly elections, decimating arch rival DMK. She followed that up with another sweep in the national elections last year, winning 37 of the state’s 39 seats. The DMK could win none.
J Jayalalithaa has said that today’s high court verdict acquitting her in a corruption case “has paved the way for me to emerge as tested pure gold.” Her party, the ruling AIADMK, is planning her return as chief minister of Tamil Nadu, with speculation that it could seek early elections in the state. “I am immensely satisfied with the verdict… Verdict paved way for me to emerge like tested pure gold,” said Ms Jayalalithaa. The 67-year-old was found not guilty in a nearly two-decades-old case of corruption by the Karnataka High Court today. She had been convicted last year by a Bangalore court. The trial was held in Karnataka to ensure it was not influenced by the considerable clout her party, the AIADMK, has in Tamil Nadu.
In September, a Bangalore judge found Ms Jayalalithaa guilty, during her first term as Chief Minister in the 90s, of disproportionately massing assets worth Rs. 54 crore outside her known sources of income. He sentenced her to four years in jail, and fined her Rs. 100 crore. She was granted bail by the Supreme Court after spending three weeks in jail.
Fireworks and celebrations filled the air outside the former Chief Minister’s home in Chennai, where top AIADMK leaders showed up within minutes of the verdict being announced. They included O Panneerselvam, the loyalist picked by Ms Jayalalithaa as her replacement, who has refused to use her office, and made it clear that he considers himself a seat-warmer.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi called Ms Jayalalithaa this afternoon to congratulate her on her acquittal. Foreign Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and NCP chief Sharad Pawar also spoke to her.
The case against her had been filed by Subramanian Swamy, a leader of the BJP, who has indicated he will appeal against her acquittal in the Supreme Court. In the 2011 state elections, Ms Jayalalithaa decimated the DMK to win a third term as chief minister. In the national elections last May, her party won 37 of Tamil Nadu’s 39 seats. The DMK got none. The DMK’s 90-year-old chief M Karunanidhi would only say today, “I’d like to remember Gandhi’s words that one’s conscience is the largest court of all courts.”
Last September, a court in Bengaluru in neighbouring Karnataka found her guilty of amassing illegal wealth while in office during her first term as Chief Minister in the 1990s. She was sentenced to four years in jail and spent three weeks in prison before getting bail from the Supreme Court. But Bangalore High Court judge CR Kumaraswamy declared her “appeal upheld” on Monday at today’s hearing, which lasted only seconds. The judge said that the charge that the politician had accrued assets disproportionate to her declared sources of income was largely unproven – that it amounted to about 8 per cent of her wealth when she became chief minister, which was “relatively small” and “within the permissible limit of 10 per cent”. The judge also said that the prosecution had overlooked hefty loans she had taken from banks and incorrectly mixed her personal assets with that of firms for whom she and close aide Saiskala Natarajan served as Directors (Ms Natarajan was also acquitted today). The judge also said that there was “no acceptable evidence” that in 1995, Ms Jayalalithaa spent nearly three crores on a lavish wedding of Ms Natarajan’s son – the prosecution had said the lavish expenditure proved the politician had vast wealth that was undeclared. “I have not made any mistakes. And despite the charges against me, the court verdict has proved that I have passed the test like pure gold,” the leader said in a statement, adding the “prayers of Tamil Nadu people” have been answered.
She was charged with corruption in 1997 when police seized assets including 28 kilos (62 pounds) of gold, 750 pairs of shoes and more than 10,000 saris in a raid on her home. Prosecutors said her assets, which reportedly included two 1,000-acre estates in the lush tropical state she ran, were vastly disproportionate to her earnings during her first term as chief minister, which ran from 1991 to 1996.
AIADMK party the still very popular in the state and is the third largest force in Parliament and she is known to enjoy a close relationship with the PM. The DMK party leaders are deeply worried about their fate in the state with a powerful CM assuming chief ministership now.
Some of the quotes: “I am immensely satisfied with the verdict… Verdict paved way for me to emerge like tested pure gold.”. “Justice has prevailed… the DMK’s vendetta has finally failed.” “It has confirmed that I have done no wrong, case foisted by political enemies.” “Don’t consider it as a personal victory, justice has been established, dharma has won.”
Before the judgment announcement Jayalalithaa has invoked god’s intervention but after the judgment she has not thanked so far god even once, not even as a mere formality.
There is general feeling in the public that even courts in India promotes corruption!.