Chennai, May 19 Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa on Thursday led her AIADMK to a second five-year term, convincingly defeating a divided opposition and proving wrong exit polls that predicted her ouster.
"I am overwhelmed by the resounding victory given by the people. My party and I are indebted to the people of Tamil Nadu," an emotive Jayalalithaa said as the AIADMK cruised to victory in 134 of the 232 assembly seats.
"After 1984, no ruling party in the state has been able to win an election and form the government for a successive term," she added.
The actor-turned-politician, who is known to nurture larger national political ambitions, said there was no word in dictionary to describe her feelings. The victory "is truly historic".
The DMK-Congress combine which had hoped to unseat Jayalalithaa had to settle for 97 seats, with the Congress tally getting reduced to just eight. A solitary seat went to DMK ally, the Indian Union Muslim League.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whose party had dubbed Jayalalithaa corrupt during the election campaign, promptly congratulated her.
More than the DMK-Congress defeat was the washout of a six-party alliance led by actor-turned-politician and chief ministerial hopeful A. Vijaykanth who himself finished third in his constituency Ulundurpettai.
The CPI and MDMK -- part of the six-party grouping -- blamed their defeat on the "money power" unleashed by the AIADMK and the DMK.
"The AIADMK and DMK bribed the voters on a large scale," MDMK leader Vaiko said. "It was the money power that won in the 2016 assembly elections."
Added Communist leader R. Mutharasan: "We tried to form a third front but were not able to fight the money power."
None of this made any difference to the tens of thousands of AIADMK supporters, including a large number of women, who celebrated the party's victory outside Jayalalithaa's residence and all across the state.
The PMK, which for the first time fought in all the constituencies, could not win a single seat. The Bharatiya Janata Party and its allies which too contested all the seats suffered a similar fate.
Polling was postponed in two constituencies by the Election Commission.
The DMK did make major gains but this proved to be mainly at the cost of other opposition parties - indicating that Jayalalithaa's victory was made possible by a splintered opposition.
The bad news for the AIADMK came from Chennai, which was battered by flash floods in December and whose voters appeared to have overwhelmingly turned against the ruling party.
AIADMK candidates trailed behind the DMK in 10 of the 16 constituencies in the capital.
But Jayalalithaa retained her Radhakrishnan Nagar constitutency in the city, trouncing the DMK by 39,545 votes.
DMK president and former chief minister M. Karunanidhi, 91, was also elected to the assembly from Thiruvarur -- for the 13th time. He has never been defeated since he began contesting elections in 1957.