Ok Jayalalithaa is convicted, but can the Opposition gain from it?

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Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) leader J Jayalalithaa has been convicted by a special Bangalore court in the disproportionate assets (DA) case. But how much help will it help the beleaguered Opposition in the state?

In personality-centric political systems, adversity means opportunity

In political systems that are personality-centric, legal action and the consequences do offer little advantage to the Opposition. In Tamil Nadu, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) might feel happy with the verdict but only till the point of the actor-turned-politician's stepping down from the chair of the chief minister.

The DMK, with its image tainted by corruption charges like those in the 2G Spectrum and the Aircel-Maxis cases and a leadership badly hit by factionalism, there is not much hope even after Jayalalithaa was found guilty. And Jayalalithaa has also been seen making a strong comeback in 2002 after the Supreme Court acquitted her in a corruption case.

More sympathy for Jayalalithaa, bad sign for Opposition?

The important aspect of the story is that the court's verdict will generate a big sympathy wave for Jayalalithaa for she is the most popular personality in Tamil Nadu politics and the hapless DMK will find little answer for that. The populist politician, even after being disqualified to contest polls by the verdict, will exert her influence from the jail, making the governance a remote-controlled affair.

Same stories in Bengal, Odisha and Bihar: Populist schemes and social empowerment strengthen personality cults

The same story can be seen in states like West Bengal, Odisha and Odisha where personality cults have overshadowed governance. Leaders like Mamata Banerjee, Naveen Patnaik, Nitish Kumar or even Lalu Prasad (who was convicted in fodder scam in September last year) are difficult to be defeated easily because of their public appeal grown through populist schemes and social empowerment initiatives. It is not without a reason that big chit fund schemes allegedly involving members of the ruling parties in Bengal and Odisha have succeeded little in making any inroads in their vote-banks.

In states like Bihar, the Nitish Kumars and Lalu Prasads can aspire to return to prominence even after getting demolished in national poll, thanks to their deft calculations of social coalition.

Jayalalithaa's conviction will give her Opposition in the state a moral satisfaction but just like the Left or Congress in Bengal or the BJP or Congress in Odisha, turning the opportunity into a real change in electoral politics is a different ball game altogether.

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