AIADMK General Secretary VK Sasikala's conviction and sentencing by the Supreme Court today is a milestone in Tamil Nadu politics, not only because she is the first politician from the state to be convicted for corruption by the apex court, but also because it will change the fundamental nature of the party's politics itself.
In fact, Sasikala's case is also tragic because her political career has nosedived even before it took off. Four years in a jail outside Tamil Nadu, with possibly no support from the government in the state, and the long period of disqualification will practically end her political career.
If she recovers from the immediate shock and gets resilient, she can still try to hoist her nominee as the Chief Minister and try some proxy rule from a Karnataka jail, but it's an extremely remote possibility because the MLAs will now jump ship.
And since she has to immediately surrender as per the SC order, there's hardly any time left, unless she had already prepared an alternative script.
Equally affected will be Sasikala's family that the media often call the 'Mannargudi Mafia'. They need power and authority more than any time in the past. Losing the patronage of the AIADMK, that was somewhat retained through Sasiakala despite Jaya banishing them, will be disastrous for them because they have always been held as a bad influence on Jayalalithaa. They are big, with a lot of members trying different things and have huge business interests. An inimical government is bad news indeed.
This judgment is a body blow to the Sasiakala faction, a fall that's really hard to recover from. Operating from a jail in another state, with a family that is notorious in the state, is rather impossible.
It's now only a matter of time before the MLAs switch sides. Even if they try to gather around her and assuage her by promising support to her nominee, in case she chooses one, it's not going to last. This judgment is a body blow to the Sasiakala faction, a fall that's really hard to recover from. Operating from a jail in another state, with a family that is notorious in the state, is rather impossible.
The O. Panneerselvam (OPS) camp can now take it easy. The trickle should now become a steady flow. The equations have to be rewritten. And OPS is already a popular man. This verdict will make him a superstar, the new star in Tamil Nadu's Dravidian politics.
OPS is so different from her predecessors - J Jayalalithaa and MGR. Both controlled the party and the state with iron fists. Jayalalithaa often spoke about "military discipline" and had shown to both her party workers, detractors, political opponents and even the people of the state that she doesn't care much for their rights as much as she cares for their welfare. In fact, this infallibility was a legend that made her both a feared and fearless leader. MGR too had similar traits although he appeared more affable because of his onscreen image.
In contrast, OPS is soft, more democratic, less showy, accessible, and down to earth. It might prop up new challenges within the party, but it might also change the way politics has been played at least in one part of the Dravidian spectrum.
The BJP should be happy because they went all out in supporting him, although never in public. Besides OPS, the man rejoicing the most will be Dr V Maithreyan, the first AIADMK MP to shift loyalty and stay put throughout this difficult period.