The Curious Case of Delayed Bypolls in Tamil Nadu and Why it Suits Both AIADMK and DMK
TTV Dinakaran of the rebel AIADMK group has been campaigning extensively in Thirupparankundram and should he succeed in getting the better of the two parties, both Edappadi Palaniswami and MK Stalin will be embarrassed.
Both O Panneerselvam (L) and MK Stalin would be happy to postpone the risk.
There are several battles being fought in the Tamil Nadu political theatre. Barring the battle of the ballot.
The elections to local bodies in the state that were scheduled for October 2016 have not yet been held. The by-election to J Jayalalithaa's constituency, RK Nagar, after her demise was rescinded in April 2017 on account of electoral malpractices, and was held more than a year after she passed away instead of the mandatory six months.
And now, bypolls to Thirupparankundram (represented by AK Bose) and Thiruvarur (represented by M Karunanidhi) assembly constituencies, necessitated by the passing away of its MLAs, have been pushed away following a request by the Tamil Nadu government.
Technically, since both Bose and Karunanidhi passed away in August, the Election Commission has time till February to conduct the by-elections. But since assembly elections in five states and by-elections in Karnataka were being held in November-December, it was expected that bypolls in these two seats in Tamil Nadu would be clubbed with them.
In her communication to the EC, Tamil Nadu chief secretary Girija Vaidyanathan has mentioned two separate reasons to justify her advice to put off the two by-elections. Citing the Meteorological department's prediction that the seasonal rainfall for Tamil Nadu is likely to be above normal (112 per cent of the long period average), Vaidyanathan points out that Thiruvarur falls in the delta area and may be affected by heavy rain during the October-December period.
“As the state machinery would be fully mobilised to handle these contingencies, it is not advisable to notify by-elections during this period,” says her letter to the EC.
Making a case to put off the by-election to Thirupparankundram, Vaidyanathan cites the cases that have been filed in the Madras High court by DMK candidate P Saravanan who lost the election in 2016, questioning the validity of the nomination filed by the late AK Bose. The court has posted the case for final arguments on 23 October.
“At this juncture, notifying the by-election may be perceived to be an attempt to overreach the powers of the High court, and therefore, it would not be advisable till the matter is settled by the High court,” writes Vaidyanathan.
The EC decision to accept the chief secretary's advice is different from how it had reacted when then Tamil Nadu governor K Rosaiah in May 2016, asked the constitutional body to immediately conduct by-elections to two constituencies - Thanjavur and Aravakurichi - in public interest.
Elections to these two seats did not take place along with the rest of the state during the May 2016 assembly elections following evidence of large-scale bribery of voters. Though Rosaiah defended his letter to EC saying he did so after receiving representations from the candidates, the EC expressed its displeasure over the Governor's advice.
Incidentally, the bypolls to Thanjavur, Aravakurichi and Thirupparankundram were eventually held on November 19, 2016, right in the middle of the north-east monsoon. At that time, the AIADMK government did not urge the EC to postpone the electoral exercise on the pretext of heavy rainfall.
After all, the same year in mid-December, Cyclone Vardah hit Chennai and districts on its outskirts. Was it because the AIADMK then was better placed politically, gaining from the sympathy surrounding Jayalalithaa's hospitalisation, and went on to win all three seats?
Interestingly, both the mainline Dravidian parties - the AIADMK and the DMK - would be happy to get a breather. TTV Dinakaran of the rebel AIADMK group has been campaigning extensively in Thirupparankundram and should he succeed in getting the better of the two parties, both Edappadi Palaniswami and MK Stalin will be embarrassed.
Thirupparankundram is in the Madurai district of Tamil Nadu, a Thevar-dominated region and a defeat for the AIADMK would be also seen as a setback to O Panneerselvam, who is the party strongman from southern Tamil Nadu. For the DMK, the worry would be the damage Stalin's estranged brother MK Alagiri could do to its chances in his backyard.
Thiruvarur will be to the DMK what RK Nagar was to the AIADMK. Here again, in case Alagiri throws his hat into the ring, asking for votes in his late father's name, he could give the DMK a run for its money.
It is a proposition Alagiri would be encouraged by DMK's opponents to consider as politically, Thiruvarur will provide Karunanidhi's son with the best chance to get back at Stalin, to show he is no paper tiger. It is therefore a risk the DMK will be happy to postpone.
(The writer is a veteran journalist. Views expressed are personal.)
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