CHENNAI (Reuters) – One of India’s most powerful politicians, Jayalalithaa Jayaram, was sworn in as chief minister of the southern state of Tamil Nadu following a nine-month break, after a court overturned her conviction in a corruption case.
Jayalalithaa was forced to resign as chief minister last year after being convicted of holding 530 million rupees ($8.3 million) in unaccounted cash and property. But a higher court scrapped the case against the former film star last week. Tamil Nadu Governor K. Rosaiah administered the oath in Tamil to Jayalalithaa and 28 ministers.
Defying tradition, ministers took the oath in chorus in two batches of 14 each in a process that lasted a little less than 30 minutes.
A bevy of film stars and prominent industrialists attended the ceremony, in which a beaming Jayalalithaa was clad in a simple green chiffon saree. Delighted members of her All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) party hailed the event as a turning point for the state. "It is an historic moment," said AIADMK spokesman Rabi Bernard.
"All through her life she has overcome difficulties through her hard work, perseverance and faith in God." In the last few months, when she was out of power, political uncertainty gripped the state, affecting developments such as the inauguration of Chennai’s much-delayed Metro Rail project.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been trying to boost his Bharatiya Janata Party in the state, which has been dominated by film stars and scriptwriters for four decades, using cinema to promote Tamil culture and language and win support. Outside the venue, supporters and fans of Jayalalithaa celebrated.
"Good times are in store for Tamil Nadu again," 70 year old Y.S. Velusamy sang as he banged away on a native drum.
"Our Amma is back and she has won justice," he sang in a reference to a 19-year-old corruption case in which Jayalalithaa was acquitted on appeal earlier this month.
As well as a cult-like following in Tamil Nadu, Jayalalithaa wields national influence, with AIADMK holding the third largest number of seats in India’s lower house of parliament. She has endeared herself to millions of voters by giving away laptops and food processors. The state assembly elections are due in less than a year.