CHENNAI: The conviction of AIADMK supremo and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa in the 18 year-old disproportionate assets case has come as a rude shock to the ruling party, casting a doubt over the 66 year-old leader's political future ahead of the 2016 assembly polls.
Jayalalithaa has earned the dubious distinction of becoming the first sitting Chief Minister in the country to be found guilty under the provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act and faces the prospects of being disqualified as MLA and losing power.
While a pall of gloom descended at the AIADMK headquarters at Royapettah, with some angry workers burning effigies of DMK leaders, the archrivals celebrated Jayalalitha's conviction with scores of DMK workers thronging the headquarters Arivalayam as well as Karunanidhi's residence.
The special court's verdict pronouncing their leader 'Amma' (Mother, as she is addressed by supporters) guilty crushed the die-hard AIADMK supporters' hope of her emerging unscathed in this case that was hanging over her head like the Damocles sword.
She had to step down as Chief Minister in 2001 when Supreme Court observed that she cannot hold office, as she was earlier sentenced in two corruption cases in 2000, which, however, was set aside later.
Today's verdict has come as a jolt to the ruling AIADMK as it had been enjoying a winning spree in all elections held since April 2011, when the party trounced DMK.
The party had put up a stellar performance in the Lok Sabha polls this year, winning 37 of the 39 states in the state, though its hopes of a pivot role in the Centre failed with the BJP mustering majority on its own.
However, there is no threat to the party government as AIADMK has a solid majority of 150 seats in the 234-member Assembly.
She had been acquitted in several other cases filed during the DMK regime.
After the apex court's observation in 2001 that she cannot continue in office, Jayalalithaa had made her loyal aide and then not-so-known face O Panneerselvam as her successor to power.
After getting absolved of the charges in the Madras High Court, she had contested from Andipatti constituency and became the Chief Minister again in 2002.
Panneerselvam is also one of the names presently doing the rounds in AIADMK circles as one of the probables to take over as the next Chief Minister if Jayalalithaa has to resign.
The others being Transport Minister V Senthil Balaji and Electricity Minister Natham R Viswanathan and even former Chief Secretary and Consultant to the state government, Sheela Balakrishnan.