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CHENNAI: J Jayalalithaa has said that today's high court verdict "has paved the way for me to emerge as tested pure gold." Her party, the ruling AIADMK, is planning her return as chief minister of Tamil Nadu, with speculation that it could seek early elections in the state. Once Mr Panneerselvam resigns, the AIADMK is expected to elect Ms Jayalalithaa as leader of its legislative party, after which she can ask the state governor to swear in her new government. "Wait for an announcement from the Chief Minister's office," her party said Current chief minister O Panneerselvam, hand-picked by Ms Jayalalithaa when she had to step down after being convicted in September last year, is expected to resign soon, perhaps as early as this evening, party sources said. Mr Panneerselvam met Ms Jayalalithaa at her Chennai residence soon after the High Court upheld her appeal against her conviction by a trial court.

The conviction meant she was disqualified as a lawmaker and will have to contest elections within six months of being sworn in as Chief Minister. There is buzz that she could choose to have early elections called in Tamil Nadu, where assembly polls are due next year. "It's Madam's call and it's well known she'd win elections yet again in a big way," said ally, actor Sarathkumar, after meeting Ms Jayalalithaa. The AIADMK calculates that her legal victory today will lead to gains for it if elections are held now. Ms Jayalalithaa had led the party to a massive win in the 2011 assembly elections, decimating arch rival DMK. She followed that up with another sweep in the national elections last year, winning 37 of the state's 39 seats. The DMK could win none. The DMK's 90-year-old chief M Karunanidhi would only say today, "I'd like to remember Gandhi's words that one's conscience is the largest court of all courts."

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