"Throw Maidservant Sasikala out!" went the cry from the crowd in Tamil at O Panneerselvam's home in Chennai. This class slur came just minutes after the Supreme Court had delivered its much-awaited verdict in the disproportionate assets case. To them, Sasikala was the shrew who had cast an evil spell on their 'Amma' J Jayalalithaa, leading her into legal trouble.
In fact, over the past week, such has been the hatred against Sasikala and the Mannargudi clan — reflected both in the real and the virtual space — that it was no longer the Government of Karnataka versus Sasikala and others. It was the People of Tamil Nadu versus Sasikala. Well, almost, with support among the masses for Sasikala next to negligible.
But look into the judgment and you realise that it is not about Sasikala. It is about Jayalalithaa more than anyone else. Which is why the big picture has huge implications for the political dynamics of the state and for AIADMK in particular. Because the verdict, while it may seem more about Sasikala in the context of the politics of today, the manner in which the court minced no words in labelling Jayalalithaa as corrupt should make the AIADMK hang its head in shame.
Contrary to expectations, the Supreme Court did not spare Jayalalithaa even though she is no more. Showing no mercy for the deceased chief minister, the court called her the "mastermind who misused her public office", who masked banking exchanges, who acquired "vast tracts of land" for pittances and conspired with her co-accused at Veda Nilayam at Poes Garden only to later "feign ignorance" about any crime committed.
What this in effect does, is to demolish the public perception that Jayalalithaa was a saint while Sasikala and her family was the evil influence who took advantage of a gullible Jaya. The two judges are clear that the conspiracy was the doing of Accused Number One Jayalalithaa and the other were mere abettors. In fact, the court says Jayalalithaa did not accommodate Sasikala at Poes Garden out of some "philanthropic urge" but with the cold-blooded calculation to keep herself secure from any legal complications, which could arise from their criminal activities. In a nutshell, the verdict has damned Jayalalithaa in no uncertain terms.
The magnitude of the scam and the manner in which it was carried out, clearly astounded the judges. Justice Amitava Roy said that the case was "startling" in the way corruption was carried out by the accused persons with sheer impunity.
What does it mean for Amma's legacy? In 570-odd pages, the judges piled tremendous ignominy on Jayalalithaa's legacy, leaving it in tatters.
Not that any of this has been digested by either of the two camps. While the Sasikala camp is despondent that their chief's postal address will be Bengaluru Central Prison till 2021, the Panneerselvam side is jubiliant that their political rival has been legally sidelined. Both do not realise that the person who is their leader, stands tarnished in death, her name sullied.
In fact, there is no way anyone can now recommend Jayalalithaa's name for the Bharat Ratna, as the party leaders wanted to. Reports also suggest that her portraits will have to be removed from all government offices as she has been convicted even after death by the apex court. Although it seems highly unlikely that if an AIADMK government manages to be sworn in, it will remove any of Amma's photographs from the corridors of power.
Not that any of this is new. Tamil Nadu sees one of the most corrupt elections in India, with bribing of voters a common phenomenon.
But what was galling was the manner in which the AIADMK would act holier than thou, heaping ridicule on the DMK for corruption in the 2G scam. The verdict now means the AIADMK can no longer pour scorn on its political rival.
But more than the two political parties, it is a sad day for Tamil Nadu because it only reinforces how it has to choose between the corrupt and the allegedly corrupt. The 2G case verdict also should be pronounced soon and India will know if it will be even-stevens in Tamil Nadu.
Will anything change in Tamil Nadu after the verdict? Unlikely. The focus has been so much on the humiliation meted out to Sasikala that people forget to read the fine print. That Sasikala, in the eyes of the court, is just a mere pawn.
The queen was Jayalalithaa.
Published Date: Feb 15, 2017 07:57 am | Updated Date: Feb 15, 2017 08:01 am