The massive victory of J Jayalalitha, AIADMK Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, in the Radhakrishnan Nagar by-election was on expected lines. Having established firmly that only a candidate of the governing party will be allowed to win in any by-election to the State Assembly and the Election Commission&’s continued inability to assert its authority to ensure a free and fair by-election, opposition parties refrained from fielding candidates. To avoid the odium of winning a one-horse race, the AIADMK persuaded the CPI, an erstwhile ally of the ruling party, to enter the fray, and its candidate, C Mahendran, polled just 9,710 votes against Jayalalitha&’s 160,432 votes in the constituency having an electorate of 243,241 votes.
The DMK can draw comfort that its committed voters numbering around 60,000 heeded to the party&’s call and refrained from voting. Jayalalitha took a big gamble in deciding to contest an election when the Karnataka government made it clear that it would appeal against her acquittal by the High Court in the disproportionate assets case. Justice CR Kumaraswamy of the Karnataka High Court acquitted her on his assumption that Jayalalitha&’s assets had increased from Rs.34,76,65,654 to Rs.37,59,02,466, a difference of Rs.2,82,36,812, during her first term in office from 1991 to 1996 which works out to just 8.12 per cent, and condoned it.
At the time of the 2011 Assembly election she declared her total assets as Rs.51.40 crore which, according to her 27 June election affidavit, has more than doubled to Rs.117 crore. The AIADMK&’s official organ, Namadhu MGR, termed Karnataka&’s decision to appeal against the High Court judgment “a shameful act,” while the BJP tried its best to dissuade the Congress government in Karnataka from filing a special leave petition in the Supreme Court challenging Jayalalitha&’s acquittal in the 18-year-old disproportionate assets case. But the government was guided by sound legal principles and went by the recommendations of the State&’s Advocate-General, Public Prosecutor and the Law Department. Not to have appealed against this judgment would have been a travesty of justice.
Jayalalitha was well advised to wait till she was exonerated by the Supreme Court to resume as Chief Minister and seek re-election to the Assembly. But she was in a hurry to take over the reins of power and legitimise it by getting re-elected to the Assembly so that she could claim the people of Tamil Nadu had exonerated her. Unless the Supreme Court dismisses the Karnataka government&’s special leave petition in limine, Jayalalitha&’s second innings in the current Assembly will remain suspect. A stay of the High Court order would put an end to her political ambition.