CHENNAI: With a vacuum created in Tamil Nadu's political scene following the conviction of AIADMK supremo Jayalalithaa in a graft case, opposition parties are smelling an opportunity to strengthen their ranks ahead of the 2016 Assembly polls.
At the forefront is the DMK, whose house the party chief M Karunanidhi is trying to put in order in the wake of intra-party squabbles following the 2011 electoral debacle.
The party has gone through its share of churnings since then, including expulsion of Karunanidhi's Madurai-based son M K Alagiri from the party following his open outbursts on leadership issues.
Having self-appraised its rout at the 2011 hustings-- not even managing to secure the main opposition party status, the DMK sees a glimmer of hope to shore up its prospects with Jayalalithaa's conviction.
Having spearheaded the disproportionate assets case against Jayalalithaa, with party senior K Anbazhagan impleading in the case, Karunanidhi believes the conviction of his bete noire has infused fresh energy in DMK.
"At a time when she was trying to finish off this movement (DMK), when all our comrades were tensed (about it), she herself walked into the trap, and it is a fact that she unwittingly helped in giving a push to this movement," he said.
Karunanidhi's remarks came at a recent meeting of his party's district secretaries, where he described Jayalalithaa's incarceration as her own doing.
He said Jayalalithaa may go for an appeal in the Supreme Court against her conviction, but her aspirations of coming back to power will remain a 'dream.'
However, the party is still in a Catch-22 situation as the 2G spectrum case, in which Karunanidhi's daughter Kanimozhi and junior colleague A Raja are accused, hangs like the proverbial Damocles sword. DMK chief's wife Dayalu Ammal is a witness in the CBI-probed case.
It is believed that this fact made Karunanidhi tread a cautious path over the Jayalalithaa verdict, as he remained incommunicado over the entire day on September 27 even as his reaction to Jayalalithaa's conviction, eagerly awaited by political observers, came late.
While AIADMK is perceived to be on friendly terms with BJP at the national level, with Jayalalithaa sharing cordial ties with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, leaders sing a different tune in Tamil Nadu.
The BJP's state unit, which put up a straight fight against the ruling party in the recently held bypolls to some local bodies, including Corporations, seems to be planning for 2016 after it tasted some victory in the April Lok Sabha polls though Jayalalithaa's party netted 37 of the 39 seats here.
Jayalalithaa has been in prison after she was found guilty and sentenced to four years imprisonment by a Bangalore court on September 27 in a disproportionate asset case. The unseated chief minister has also been slapped with a fine of Rs 100 crore, highest imposed on any politician. Though she had approached the Karnataka high court seeking bail and challenging the verdict, the high court rejected her plea.
The civic bypolls were reduced to a BJP-AIADMK fight and ever since Jayalalithaa's conviction, the saffron party is complaining of law and order situation day in and day out.
Interestingly, BJP is reportedly wooing actor Rajnikanth, apparently aiming to cash in on his star power to ensure a better performance in the next elections. The actor had earlier supported former Prime Minister A B Vajapayee's river inter-linking efforts.
Neither the actor nor BJP have denied reports of the latter's national president Amit Shah holding telephonic conversations with the star recently. The party has been facing a severe drought in the state Assembly, having been unable to return a legislator for over a decade.
AIADMK's anticipation of smooth sailing in the 2016 elections seem to be a tough task with its chief in jail and the party virtually directionless.
This has led to speculation of a realignment of political equations, with MDMK leader Vaiko, a strong critic of Karunanidhi, softening his stand against the DMK leader.
A former DMK leader, who quit the party after he fell out of favour with Karunanidhi, Vaiko in his party's recent conference did not attack the 90-year-old leader even as he welcomed DMK's stand on a referendum on Eelam Tamils issue, seen as feelers by political observers.
While the 2016 polls is still 18 months away, managers in political parties have started their calculations, aiming to stop the AIADMK juggernaut that had been steamrolling them since 2011.
The M G Ramachandran-founded party has not lost a single election since the 2011 polls even as supporters and workers are keeping their fingers crossed over 'Amma' returning to the thick of action and steer the party from the perceived blot it had suffered on September 27 when she was convicted in the disproportionate assets case.