CHENNAI — In a dramatic turn of events, AIADMK chief Jayalalithaa today wriggled herself out of the legal vortex she was caught in and has got the decks cleared for her return to the chief minister's post she had lost eight months ago.
The 'Comeback Queen', known for her resilience and determination to fight adverse situations, might have been on tenterhooks over the future of her political career, but has managed to stage a comeback.
Party supporters including AIADMK Ministers had been hopping from temples to churches to mosques praying for the release of their 67-year-old 'Puratchi Thalaivi Amma' (Revolutionary Leader-Mother). They have been conducting a slew of prayers for the last few months, including carrying milk pots and performing 'homams' (havans).
The acquittal comes as a shot in the arm for Jayalalithaa, who in the face of her conviction in September last, had vowed to fight the situation legally and come out clean in what threatened to be a sudden dead-end of an otherwise successful political career.
Earlier, the TANSI case in 2001 had derailed her for a brief period after the Supreme Court struck down her appointment before she won her case legally and also was successful in a by-poll to lead the state.
However, this time it would not have been easy for the charismatic yesteryear actress, with a new Central legislation in place to disqualify elected representatives from contesting in elections.
But today's verdict literally allows the 'politician by accident' to plan not only a new course of political path but also prepare herself and her party for the assembly elections scheduled next year. .
From a 'hesitant' teen starlet who made her cinema debut in CV Sridhar-directed 'Vennira Aadai,' in 1956, Jayalalithaa rose in ranks as a popular heroine, pairing opposite among others, then matinee idol MG Ramachandran (MGR).
Having done nearly 30 films together, their on screen bonding stretched to politics also, with Jayalalithaa becoming the former Chief Minister's protege after he founded AIADMK.
Having started off as the party's Propaganda Secretary, she impressed Ramachandran, especially with her English language skills, and soon earned a ticket to Rajya Sabha, and with that, a stronger foothold in politics.
Jayalalithaa had split the party after being humiliated during Ramachandran's funeral procession.
But she later united the different factions following an ugly incident involving her party's arch rival DMK in the state Assembly, when she was allegedly insulted on the floor of the House. She was Opposition Leader then.
In 1991, she stitched up an alliance with Congress and a sympathy wave spurred by the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi landed her party a landslide victory, with Jayalalithaa making her debut as Chief Minister.
However, the same period turned out to be her undoing with her aide Sasikala's family allegedly calling the shots in all aspects of government. The extravaganza publicly displayed during the marriage of her foster son V N Sudhakaran (now disowned) attracted strong criticism.
AIADMK lost power in 1996 when the then DMK-TMC combine, backed by the support of Tamil superstar Rajinikanth, in the face of corruption charges against the Jayalalithaa-led party, swept the elections.
She was subsequently arrested and a number of cases including the disproportionate assets case were registered against her.
Unperturbed by the electoral loss, she later allied with AB Vajpayee but later brought down his party-led government in 1999, taking her political profile to the national spectrum.
Jayalalithaa steered her party to power once again in 2001, and did not allow the brief derailment due to conviction in TANSI case affect the party's fortunes, as she installed O Panneerselvam in her place.
After securing an acquittal later, she took over the reins from him.
Once again in 2011, defying all speculation of a DMK win, Jayalalithaa trounced her arch rival, as the former could not even become the main opposition party in the Assembly.