Five months after a court convicted and disqualified All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) chief J Jayalalithaa as MLA in disproportionate assets case, the party supremo was able to ensure a stunning victory for her candidate in by-election held in her Srirangam constituency on 13 February.
The constituency was vacated after her conviction on 27 September 2014 under anti-corruption laws. Jayalalithaa had also relinquished the chief minister’s post after that.
The increased margin achieved by party candidate S Valarmathi, someone with a limited political experience, has turned out to be a major reprieve to the party which was reeling under troubles ever since Jayalalithaa was disqualified to remain as state chief minister.
In 2011 polls, Jayalalithaa got 58.99 percent votes as against Valarmathi’s 68.52 percent in the 2015 by-election.
Jayalalithaa has stopped making public appearances after her disqualification and confined herself to Poes Garden residence in Chennai. Though the party and the government were remote-controlled by her, a leadership vacuum was visible in the top echelons of both. The party cadre also started feeling dispirited because of the lack of direct engagements with their leader.
But the election has clearly proved that Jayalalithaa was enjoying massive popular support in the state despite her conviction in the corruption case. And, also that her worst opponent and arch-enemy Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) was not able to make political gains out of her conviction and faced a humiliating defeat.
This election has been remarkable in Tamil politics as Jayalalithaa did not campaign for her candidate, except issuing a brief statement urging voters to exercise their franchise in recognition of the developmental works initiated by her government.
It was a fight she waged without going directly into the battlefield. On the other hand, DMK was all over, trying its best to win the election but was forced to bite the dust.
After the result was out, Jayalalithaa was quick to respond saying the election proved her strength. She said the party was able to defeat all conspiracies hatched by political opponents. Nevertheless, the election has proved that “Amma” still remains a force to reckon with in Tamil politics. There is no alternative in sight, yet, to her party and the government.
The deposed chief minister made an emotional appeal to the voters in Srirangam for her candidate Valarmathi. She said: “Srirangam is my motherland. Srirangam is my own house. Srirangam is the holy land, where my ancestors lived.”