New Delhi: VK Sasikala was found guilty of corruption by the Supreme Court and has been sentenced to four years in prison on Tuesday. This ends her high-velocity and divisive bid to be Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu - she is now barred from contesting an election for the next ten years. At 10:30 am on Tuesday, two judges of the Supreme Court delivered their ruling separately, but agreed that Ms Sasikala had, in the early 90s, accumulated an illicit fortune with Ms Jayalalithaa, the five-term Chief Minister who she lived with, and who died in December.
- Jail for 4 years for Sasikala, can't contest elections for 10 years
- Sasikala unlikely to surrender, yet to receive copy of verdict: sources
- The verdict also talks of 'incriminating evidence' against J Jayalalithaa
Sources said that Ms Sasikala will surrender today to be imprisoned in Bengaluru in neighbouring Karnataka, which prosecuted the case, and where she was jailed with Ms Jayalalithaa in 2014 for three weeks before they were acquitted. The case then moved to the Supreme Court.
By detailing "incriminating evidence" against her, Tuesday's judgement rips a huge hole through the legacy of Ms Jayalalithaa, beloved Amma (mother) to lakhs of supporters who accorded her deity-like status and treated her with religious fervor. The case was premised on the fact that during her first term, Ms Jayalalithaa misused her office to accrue 60 crores of assets in a shared fortune with Ms Sasikala and her relatives, two of whom have also been convicted on Tuesday.
As the verdict was delivered in Delhi, Ms Sasikala was at a resort on the outskirts of Chennai, where about 120 legislators from her party, the ruling AIADMK, have been stationed for a week to prevent them from being poached by rival O Panneerselvam. He took over as Chief Minister after the death of Ms Jayalalithaa, who was his mentor. Then, last Tuesday, OPS, as he is known, refused party orders to facilitate Ms Sasikala's promotion to the state's top job. Instead, like her, he petitioned Governor C Vidyasagar Rao for the right to take a trust vote in the legislature to prove he is the rightful head of government.
To win, 117 votes are needed. The AIADMK has 134 members; 11 of them are siding with OPS.
After receiving news of the verdict, Ms Sasikala met quickly with the others who are backing her to implement decisions to ensure her hold on the party is not loosened. At the luxury resort, the gathering chose E Palanisamy, a Sasikala loyalist, as its new leader and expelled OPS. Mr Palaniswamy was then dispatched by her to meet the Governor to ask for an urgent opportunity to prove his majority.
OPS and those who've teamed with him assert that because he was chosen twice by Amma to stand-in for her as Chief Minister when she was forced to take a breather on corruption charges, he was her only intended and legitimate replacement. He has repeatedly spoken of his mission to remain Chief Minister as one guided by the "spirit of Amma."
Ms Sasikala has never contested any election - not even one within her party - and her clamour to be Chief Minister crowd-sourced public anger, which helped the cause of OPS. Social media campaigns alleged that apart from her proximity to Ms Jayalalithaa, Ms Sasikala's resume offered no reason for her ascension, and that her relatives' murky business empire that pointed to danger ahead were she to take office. Celebrities like actor Kamal Haasan also said that in recent months, OPS had proved an efficient administrator with effective handling of a large cyclone that hit Chennai as well as a massive week-long student protest on the landmark Marina Beach, where his mentor is buried.