The by-elections to Vikravandi and Nanguneri Assembly constituencies in Tamil Nadu and Kamaraj Nagar in Puducherry registered a voter turnout of 65.79%, 52.22% and 56.10%, respectively till 3 PM.
The Vikravandi seat had fallen vacant following the death of Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) legislator, while the Nanguneri and Kamaraj Nagar law makers from the Congress resigned after being elected to the Lok Sabha in the 2019 general elections.
The ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) has not got much to lose as all the three seats were held by the opposition parties. The Congress-DMK combine in Puducherry aims to retain its strength of 18 in the 33 member house which also has three nominated members of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Actor Kamal Hasan-led Makkal Neethi Maiam and the splinter AIADMK group led by TTV Dhinakaran did not field any candidates for the by-election, while the Tamil nationalist group, Naam Tamilar Katchi have candidates in the fray.
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The elections were largely incident free except for a small scuffle between the Congress and AIADMK cadres in Nanguneri when the former legislator and Member of Parliament H Vasantha Kumar was detained for visiting the constituency. There were reports of melee among the cadres of Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) and Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam of AIADMK alliance in Vikravandi.
These by-elections are important for the DMK alliance since the parties have been rallying the opposition against the AIADMK- BJP led front. The alliance has stayed intact and continues to fight against the policies of both the union and state governments.
The AIADMK- BJP alliance had its own ups and downs and a possible rift between the parties was reported in the media too. This led to D Jaya Kumar, the Minister for Fisheries and de-facto spokesperson of the state government to visit the BJP headquarters and seek the support for the party in the by-elections. However, BJP was barely visible in the campaign as the party remains without a state president after Dr Tamilisai Soundarrajan was appointed as the governor of Telangana.
During the campaign, the Minister for Milk and Dairy Development reportedly spoke against the minorities while a few office bearers of a Muslim Jamaat of Thoothukudi wanted to submit a memorandum to him. He had reportedly denied accepting the memorandum stating that the minorities won’t vote for the AIADMK as the party is an alliance partner of BJP. The Jamaat office bearers also alleged that the minister threatened of a status similar to Jammu and Kashmir if the minorities do not favour the AIADMK alliance.
The opposition parties accused the minister of acting like a representative of the BJP while his party claims to follow Dravidian policies. The minister is not new to controversies and has claimed that Narendra Modi will take care of the AIADMK government when O Panneer Selvam camp revolted against the government and even called Modi as the ‘Daddy of AIADMK’ in March this year.
The DMK’s campaign was based on the failure of the AIADMK government on various fronts and the policies of BJP-led union government affecting the people of the state. The party depends on the anti-incumbency factor to retain the constituencies and continue the alliance till the next Assembly elections due in 20 months’ time.
The AIADMK is banking on the Vanniyar community votes in Vikravandi constituency where its alliance partner PMK has a strong presence. The party has fielded a local leader and depends on the outsider tag of the Congress candidate to work in its favour.
The cash for vote allegations by both the parties was prevalent, while a DMK legislator was booked for possessing cash for distribution two days before polling. Few local leaders of the AIADMK, too, were held for distribution of cash for votes.
With the outcome of the elections not set to impact the governments in both states in a crucial manner, the fight of the DMK alliance is to retain the seats in Tamil Nadu and project itself as the alternative to the AIADMK government playing second fiddle to the BJP. The party is also banking on the reported infighting among the factions led by the chief minister and his deputy to favour them.
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The three nominated BJP members by Lieutenant Governor Kiran Bedi have put the Congress government on a wafer thin margin in Puducherry. With some reported infighting in the Puducherry Congress committee, the party is hoping to retain the seat amid continuous interference from the Lieutenant Governor.