The Supreme Court on Tuesday dealt a body blow to Jayalalitha‘s ‘friend and sister’ V K Sasikala‘s vaulting ambition to be chief minister of Tamil Nadu by ordering that she be sent back to jail immediately to serve out the remaining three years, 10 months and 27 days of a four-year sentence for corruption, handed down to her by a trial court in September 2014.

In a unanimous judgment on a 21-year-old case of disproportionate assets, which also bars her from holding public office for 10 years, a two-judge SC bench “unhesitatingly” set aside the Karnataka HC’s judgment “erroneously” acquitting Jayalalithaa, Sasikala and two others in May 2015 and upheld the conviction of the trial court, which it found to be “flawless”.

The judgment is expected to plunge Tamil Nadu into renewed political uncertainty and horse-trading, and split the 134 MLA-strong ruling AIADMK between supporters of acting CM O Panneerselvam and Sasikala, who like Jaya before her, appears intent on ruling the state from behind bars.

Even after the SC verdict, she continued to plot her moves from a luxury resort near Chennai, where she has kept over 100 MLAs in isolation for almost a week, primarily so that they cannot be poached by OPS – despite which there has been asteady trickle of defections.

Within hours of the judgment, the party elected Sasikala loyalist and strongman of Salem Edappadi K Palaniswami as the leader of the legislature party. Soon after- wards, he visited governor C Vidyasagar Rao along with other senior leaders to stake claim to form government.