BANGALORE, India (AFP) – Former film star Jayalalithaa Jayaram, one of India’s most colourful and controversial politicians, was replaced as head of a southern state on Sunday after she was jailed in a corruption case, reports said.
Jayalalithaa, 66, who enjoys a cult following in the southern state of Tamil Nadu that she has long governed, was jailed for four years on Saturday over the case that has lasted nearly two decades.
A judge in the southern city of Bangalore found Jayalalithaa guilty of amassing illegal wealth – including gold, property, hundreds of shoes and thousands of saris – in the case that she has always dismissed as being politically motivated.
She was set to spend her second night Sunday in Bangalore’s main jail in an extraordinary transformation of fortunes for the woman known as “Amma” (Mother) to her fans, whose ministers have been known to prostrate themselves before her.
Jayalalithaa, who was also fined one billion rupees ($16 million), was automatically disqualified from holding office, although she is likely from jail to still dominate her AIADMK party, the third biggest force in the national parliament.
She was replaced as Tamil Nadu chief minister on Sunday by her loyal finance minister, O Panneerselvam, following a party meeting, the Press Trust of India news agency (PTI) said.
Television footage showed Panneerselvam being mobbed by party supporters and the press as he left the meeting in the state capital Chennai.
Jayalalithaa earlier Sunday held talks with top cadres from inside Bangalore jail to arrange the handover, a party official told AFP on condition of anonymity.
“As our supremo, Jayalalithaa has advised cabinet colleagues and party leaders to convene a meeting of all lawmakers in Chennai later in the day and elect a leader to serve as our chief minister,” he said.