CHENNAI, May 22 (Reuters) - One of India's most powerful politicians, Jayalalithaa Jayaram, is set to return 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.
A former film star who has a cult-like following in Tamil Nadu, Jayalalithaa also wields influence in national politics, with her AIADMK party holding the third largest number of seats in India's lower house of parliament.
Jayalalithaa is expected to be sworn in as chief minister as early as Saturday. The governor of Tamil Nadu on Friday invited her to form the state government, his office said in a statement.
"Tamil Nadu, which was suffering without its mother, is now getting her back," said V.P. Kalairajan, a state legislator from her party.
Hundreds of supporters gathered to celebrate outside Jayalalithaa's home in Chennai, the state capital, and members of her party handed out sweets, with posters 20 feet (6 m) tall being hastily put up in anticipation of her return.
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 her last week.
After she stepped down, senior ministers wept at the swearing-in ceremony of her replacement, loyalist O. Panneerselvam, and some supporters reportedly set themselves on fire to protest against her conviction.
Panneerselvam gave up the post on Friday.
Parties led by film stars and scriptwriters have dominated politics in Tamil Nadu for four decades, using cinema to promote Tamil culture and language and win support.
Jayalalithaa acted in more than a hundred films before turning to politics, and her main rival, Muthuvel Karunanidhi, wrote plays and film scripts.
She has endeared herself to millions of voters by giving away laptops and food processors. ($1=63.6100 Indian rupees) (Reporting by Sandhya Ravishankar; Writing by Aditya Kalra; Editing by Malini Menon and Clarence Fernandez)
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