The first conviction of a sitting Chief Minister in a corruption case, which has triggered speculation as to whom she chooses to succeed her, comes as a massive blow to Jayalalithaa who had won nearly two-thirds majority in the assembly elections in 2011 and which are due in 18 months.
The names of senior minister O Panneerselvam, who had taken over as Chief Minister in 2001 after she was unseated and till her return, Transport Minister V Senthil Balaji and Electricity Minister R Viswanathan and even former Chief Secretary Sheela Balakrishna are doing the rounds as the possible successors.
Along with the 66-year-old AIADMK supremo, three others--Jayalalithaa's close friend Sasikala, Sasikala's niece Ilavarasi and her nephew and Chief Minister's disowned foster son Sudhakaran --were convicted and sentenced to four years of jail term and fined Rs 10 crore by special judge John Michael D'Cunha.
They have been convicted on the charges of amassing properties disproportionate to their known sources of income under the Prevention of Corruption Act and criminal conspiracy in the Indian Penal Code.
Since they have been sentenced to a term of more than three years, they have been lodged in the Central Jail in Parappana Agrahara. They can apply for bail only from Karnataka High Court which is on vacation till October 6 for Dasara.
The Rs 100 crore fine is the highest imposed on any politician by the special judge who heard the case of Rs 66.65 crore disproportionate assets acquired during her first term as Chief Minister between 1991 and 1996.
The conviction in the high-security court complex of Parappana Agrahara near here came amidst dramatic scenes outside where AIADMK supporters burnt effigies of DMK leader Karunanidhi and Subramaniam Swamy who had initially raked up the case.
The conviction also evoked sporadic violence in Tamil Nadu where public vehicles were attacked and shops closed.
The Directorate of Vigilance and Anti-corruption had filed a charge sheet in the case which was transferred to the court here in 2003.
Special Public Prosecutor Bhavani Singh said a sum of Rs 10 crore has been imposed on the other three convicts. He said the four can apply for bail by moving an criminal application before the High Court.
Under a Supreme Court judgment of July last year, any MP or MLA who is convicted of a crime with more than two-years sentence will be disqualified as an elected representative from the date of conviction.
Unless the conviction is stayed or overturned by a superior court, she will be disqualified under the Representation of the People Act from contesting elections for a period of 10 years--four years from the date of conviction and six years thereafter.
Ever since the Supreme Court judgment, former Bihar Chief Minister alu Prasad Yadav, former Union Health Minister Rasheed Masood and RJD leader Jagdish Sharma lost their membership of Parliament following conviction in corruption cases.
Jayalalithaa has had the dubious distinction of having to resign in 2001 following a Supreme Court judgment that nullified her appointment in view of her conviction in TANSI land deal case.
Today's verdict has come as a jolt to the ruling AIADMK as it had been enjoying a winning spree in all the elections held since April 2011, when the party trounced DMK.
The party had put up a stellar performance in the Lok Sabha polls this year, winning 37 of the 39 states in the state, though its hopes of a pivot role in the Centre failed with the BJP mustering majority on its own.
However, there is no threat to the party government as AIADMK has a solid majority of 150 seats in the 234-member Assembly.
She had been acquitted in several other cases filed during the DMK regime.