Jaya convicted in assets case

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and AIADMK Supremo J Jayalalithaa addresses a press conference in Chennai on May 16, 2014. (Photo: IANS)Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa was convicted Saturday in a Rs.66 crore disproportionate asset case by a special court here.

Following this, Jayalalithaa, also known as Amma (mother) by her party cadres, is disqualified as a member of Tamil Nadu assembly.

After an 18-year court battle, judge John Michael Cunha convicted 66-year old Jayalalithaa, who is general secretary of the AIADMK.

He held Jayalalithaa and three others – Sasikala and her relatives V.N.Sudhakaran and J.Illavarasi guilty. Sasikala is the close aide of Jayalalithaa.

Jayalalithaa was charged with acquiring assets worth around Rs.66 crore which is disproportionate to her known sources of income.

During her first tenure (1991-1996) as the chief minister, Jayalalithaa had announced that she would take just Re.1 as her salary.

The charge against her was that her assets were around Rs.3 crore in 1991 and had grown to around Rs.66 crore between 1991-1996.

The AIADMK was voted out in 1996 as it was perceived to be corrupt.

Incidentally, DMK MP T.M. Selvaganapathy lost his Rajya Sabha seat this year after he was convicted in the cremation shed case by a CBI court. He was the local administration minister in Jayalalithaa’s government when the scam broke. He later switched sides to the DMK.

The disproportionate assets case filed in 1996 by the then DMK government led by M. Karunanidhi saw several twists and turns during its course.

When the AIADMK returned to power in 2001 several witnesses turned hostile. On a petition filed by DMK leader K. Anbazhagan in the apex court, the case was transferred to Bangalore from Chennai.

Since then, the case meandered, with several petitions filed by the defence and several adjournments.

Over 255 prosecution witnesses and over 95 defence witnesses have been heard in the case.

Jayalalithaa was also summoned by the trial court in 2011 and answered over 1,300 questions posed to her by the judge.

This is not the first time in her political career that Jayalalithaa has been convicted by a court. In 2000, a trial court sentenced Jayalalithaa for three years and two years imprisonment in two cases.

The big question now is who will head the government in the absence of Jayalalithaa. Again this is not the first time such a question has cropped up.

In 2001, Jayalalithaa had to step down as a chief minister following a Supreme Court verdict which held that she cannot hold the office after being convicted for criminal offences.

However, she made O. Panneerselvam, a senior minister in her government, as the chief minister.

In 2002, Jayalalithaa again became the chief minister after being acquitted by the Madras High Court. She was later elected from Andipatti constituency.

AIADMK leaders do not rule out re-run of such an arrangement.

Friends and foes are in awe of Jayalalithaa, who is the tallest Brahmin politician in a state where anti-Brahminism is a part of political discourse.

Even her critics admit that Jayalalithaa is a fighter and has an iron grip over her party.

The judgment against her was delivered in a state where she was born.

Born in what was then known as Mysore on Feb 2, 1948, Jayalalithaa moved to Chennai with her mother, who started acting in movies.

Jayalalithaa studied at the Bishop Cotton Girl’s High School in Bangalore and another Christian convent, Church Park, in Chennai. A bright student, Jayalalithaa ventured into acting and made her debut at the age of 16 in a Kannada movie.

Her first Tamil movie was the memorable “Vennira Aadai”. But it was the grand success of “Aayirathil Oruvan” pairing with the legendary M.G. Ramachandran (MGR) that turned Jayalalithaa into a leading light of Tamil movie world.

She has paired with almost all the leading Tamil heroes. She has acted in over 100 movies, mostly in Tamil, Telugu and Kannada.

A charismatic leader who is at home in Tamil, English and Hindi (a rare quality in Tamil Nadu politics), Jayalalithaa has also sung many songs and written several stories. But when she entered politics, few could have predicted her meteoric rise.

AIADMK founder-leader MGR made Jayalalithaa the party’s propaganda secretary in the early 1980s. In 1984, she entered the Rajya Sabha.

Jayalalithaa, who chose never to marry, was elected to the Tamil Nadu assembly for the first time in 1989. Just two years later, she became the chief minister, sweeping the election of 1991 held in the wake of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination.

She lost her huge mandate within five years amid corruption charges.