Tamil Nadu is facing an unprecedented by-election to the 22 existing vacancies to the state Assembly. The polling for 18 constituencies were held along with the 38 Lok Sabha constituencies on April 18 while the remaining 4 constituencies will go for polls on May 19 and the outcome will be known on May 23. The outcome will determine the fate of the ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) in the state.
At present, the AIADMK has 114 law makers, including the speaker while the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) has 88 and its alliance partners Congress with 8 and the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) with one legislator take the opposition tally to 97. TTV Dhinakaran of the Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam (AMMK) is the lone independent legislator. The simple majority required is 118 in the house with a total strength of 234.
18 MLAs Disqualified After Submitting Memorandum to Governor
The by elections were necessitated after 19 MLAs of the TTV Dhinakaran camp submitted a letter to the governor withdrawing their support to Chief Minister Edappadi K Palanisamy (EPS). Later the speaker of the house disqualified 18 of the MLAs while one MLA switched to the ruling camp after alleging that he was pressurised to submit the letter to the governor. Other vacancies were due to the death of DMK patriarch M Karunanidhi and a couple of ruling party legislators. Another legislator, Balakrishna Reddy, who held the portfolio of youth welfare and sports in the state cabinet was disqualified since he was convicted in a case of arson.
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Earlier in the year, the present Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam (OPS) along with 10 other MLAs voted against the confidence motion moved by Chief Minister EPS during February 2017. The state had witnessed an ugly struggle for power between EPS and late J Jayalalitha’s aide, V K Sasikala, when the MLAs of the official faction were moved to a resort in Koovathur, near Chennai prior to the confidence motion.
OPS along with 10 other legislators voted against the motion while the DMK law makers were removed from the house amid severe disruptions. The DMK allies walked out in protest. The TTV faction MLAs (now disqualified) approached the court to disqualify the OPS faction MLAs who voted against the confidence motion. The OPS faction argued in the court that since they were not present in the Koovathur resort, they were not bound by the whip.
EPS-OPS Join Hands to Sideline Sasikala Faction
In a further development, EPS and OPS joined together after V K Sasikala was jailed in a case of amassing inappropriate wealth. The duo claimed to have come together for stopping a family from capturing the party and government. Reports emerged that Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh ideologue Gurumurthy brokered peace between the OPS and EPS faction with the blessings of the Bharatiya Janatha Party (BJP). OPS was sworn in as the Deputy Chief Minister immediately.
This led to the formation of AMMK and TTV Dhinakaran won from RK Nagar Assembly constituency which had been vacant since the demise of J Jayalalitha and claimed that he is the heir apparent of the late Chief Minister. He defeated the candidates of the AIADMK as well as the DMK. Distribution of vast amounts of money to the voters was attributed as the alleged reason for his victory.
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DMK Optimistic of Capturing Power
The DMK with its strong alliance believes that the party can win all the 22 Assembly segments. If that happens, the DMK alliance will achieve the required majority to form the government. M K Stalin, the president of DMK citing the failure of the ruling party in many fronts is confident of defeating the AIADMK. He had on numerous occasions accused the state government of being a puppet of the BJP-led union government.
The AIADMK is in desperation to win at least 4 seats to retain power. The fate of the ruling party is hanging in balance with no prominent mass leaders to lead the campaign along with a strong anti incumbency factor working against them. The AIADMK announced the candidates a day before the last date for filing the nominations for the 4 Assembly constituencies going to polls on May 19 while the DMK took the lead in announcing the candidates and has already completed the preliminary work for the election campaign.
AMMK May Become King maker or Even the King
The presence of AMMK is severely damaging the prospects of the ruling party in many constituencies. TTV Dhinakaran has made a name for himself as a viable alternative to the inefficient EPS-OPS duo. If the AMMK manages to win a few seats as predicted in a few pre poll predictions, the EPS-OPS duo will have to rely on their bête noire TTV Dhinakaran for clinging on to power.
Going by the track record of switching sides by EPS and OPS for power, they may even heed to the demands of TTV Dhinakaran. The merger of AIADMK and AMMK will be imminent in such a situation.
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