India politician's hopes of becoming Tamil Nadu chief dashed by graft conviction

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After long-time loyalist, Chief Minister O Panneerselvam raised a banner of revolt and the Supreme Court verdict on Tuesday that debarred party general secretary VK Sasikala from contesting any elections in the near future, the search for an alternative within the AIADMK was rather easy.

With Sasikala now behind bars, for the next three and a half year, Edappadi K Palaniswami has been called by the Governor and is likely to be sworn as the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister on Thursday.

Besides Jayalalithaa, against whom the proceedings will be abated due to her demise on December 5 past year, Sasikala, and the latter's relatives, VN Sudhakaran and Elavarasi, were also acquitted in the assets case by the Karnataka High Court.

Panneerselvam took charge of the government after the December 5 death of Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa. She has been disqualified from holding public office for 10 years of which four years will be the period of her sentence.

The historic conviction of V. K. Sasikala in the disproportionate assets case has vindicated all those who had faith in the judiciary that it would deliver justice without fear or favour and that despite aberrations and inordinate delays, the Indian judicial system is still robust and healthy.

But before Tuesday's ruling she appeared to have won enough support to be sworn in by the state assembly this week.

"I wish to say that Amma's (Jayalalithaa) Government will continue by me proving majority in the Assembly", he told reporters in his first media interaction after taking over as Chief Minister of the State.

Until then the MLAs would remain at Golden Bay resort at Kuvathur, 80km from Chennai, where they have been staying since Sasikala corralled them there last Wednesday night to stop them from switching loyalties.

Fisheries Minister D Jayakumar, who was among those who accompanied Palaniswami, claimed the group has the support of 124 MLAs.

Sasikala's elevation by the party was questioned by caretaker chief minister O Panneerselvam, who said he had been "forced" to resign to make way for her.

The Feb. 16 celebrations by Palaniswami supporters came after a day of gloom when Sasikala returned to the Central Jail in Bengaluru after being found guilty of corruption by the Supreme Court. According to the BBC, supporters of a rival politician, O. Paneerselvam, who is now standing in for chief minister, celebrated Sasikala's arrest. She had a plan to fool the people of Tamil Nadu whom she also considers as fools.

There was no immediate reaction from Sasikala who was not present at the hearing at the apex court in New Delhi and has been holed up in a resort close to Tamil Nadu's main city Chennai since last week.

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