By Subhash K Jha
MUMBAI: On Saturday when J. Jayalalithaa, former chief minister of Tamil Nadu, was found guilty by a Special Court of possessing disproportionate assets, most of her colleagues from the political and film world chose to stay mum.
Characteristically fearless and outspoken, Shatrughan Sinha of the Bharatiya Janata Party spoke up in defence of the beleaguered actress-turned-politician who went on to become the most powerful woman in Tamil Nadu.
Speaking exclusively to this writer, Shatrughan, who is never known to mince words, said, “Jayalalithaa is a friend and an ally. I am shocked by the harshness of the verdict. We all respect the honourable laws of the world. But with due respects to the honourable courts I’d humbly like to submit that the judgment on disproportionate assets seems disproportionate. Four years in prison and Rs 100 crore fine is really really a lot of punishment.”
Adds Shatrughan, “Of course the verdict has been passed. And I am a hundred percent sure the honourable courts have solid evidence against Jayalalithaji. But I wonder why this case was allowed to drag on for 18 years and how she was found to be unfit to hold the chief minister’s office after so many years.”
Shatrughan feels Jayalalithaa has done a lot for Tamil Nadu. “She may have her flaws and is now considered guilty of corruption. But there is no doubt that Jayalalithaji did a lot for her state. The womenfolk, the poor and the deprived of Tamil Nadu swear by their ‘Amma’. They will never believe she did any wrong.”
Having spoken up for his friend and political ally, Shatrughan is all for the conviction of tainted politician. “If you hold a public office, if the people elect you as their representative you have no business messing up with their faith in you. If politicians are guilty of corruption please punish them by all means. It has happened recently with two of my friend Shri Laloo Prasad Yadav and Jayalalithaji. But in both cases , I want to know why was the legal procedure against them allowed to drag on for years and years? Why couldn’t the honourable courts act faster? Justice delayed is not just justice denied sometimes it is downright cruel for those who are put in the dock.”
Shatrughan’s heart reaches out to Jayalalithaa’s family. “This is a very trying time for her loved ones and her supporters. No one ever thought she’d end up like this. My sympathies to the party and its workers.”
Meanwhile, actress politician Khushboo – who recently quit Jayalalithaa’s bete noire the DMK party – refused to comment saying, “I’ve nothing to do with either party (the AIDMK or the DMK). But I am glad to see the faith in the judiciary being restored.”
Actor Kamal Haasan, who knows Jayalalithaa closely, said, “No comments. The judgement is the comment enough which is legitimate enough. It needs no endorsement.”