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2-min read

Shifting Loyalties, Demise of Tall Leaders: Why the Tamil Nadu Assembly Bypolls Are a Nail-biter

The bypoll is an acid test for the Edappadi K Palaniswami government and also Leader of Opposition MK Stalin as this will be the first election held in the absence of two tall leaders — J Jayalalithaa and M Karunanidhi

Poornima Murali | CNN-News18

Updated:March 13, 2019, 10:01 AM IST
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Shifting Loyalties, Demise of Tall Leaders: Why the Tamil Nadu Assembly Bypolls Are a Nail-biter
File photo of DMK chief MK Stalin and AIADMK coordinator Panneerselvam (Image : PTI).
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Chennai: The DMK is seeking legal recourse to ensure that bypolls in all the 21 constituencies are held along with Lok Sabha elections. The Election Commission had announced on Sunday that bypolls in only 18 constituencies will be held on April 18, barring three other constituencies on the grounds that petitions related to elections are still pending in court.

The DMK on Tuesday filed a petition in the apex court seeking a direction to the EC’s decision to hold by-elections in the remaining three constituencies — Aravakurichi, Thiruparankundram and Ottapidaram — on April 18.

The total number of Tamil Nadu assembly seats is 234 but with 21 vacancies, the number is reduced to 213. And now with just 18 of the 21 constituencies going to polls, the AIADMK, which currently has 114 MLAs, has to technically win two of the 18 constituencies to ensure that it reaches the halfway mark of 116.

However, three AIADMK MLAs who are part of the 114 lawmakers in the assembly have openly sided with TTV Dhinakaran, putting a question mark on their loyalty to the ruling party. Three more independents who contested under the AIADMK symbol have remained ambiguous about their positions, switching sides between the EPS-OPS (E Palaniswami- O Panneerselvam) camp and the TTV camp.

A top source in the AIADMK maintained that the party should win over 11 seats to ensure it is safe till 2021 when the state government completes its five-year tenure.

Following DMK patriarch M Karunanidhi’s demise, DMK and its allies won 97 seats. Party sources said if the DMK wins all the 21 bypolls, then it will have the required majority (118) to form the government.

With three bypolls now being pushed back, the DMK may not be able to reach the desired mark, precisely why it is demanding that simultaneous bypolls take place in the remaining constituencies as well.

The trend of the ruling party winning bypolls was reversed in RK Nagar elections, where Dhinarakan, a former AIADMK MP, won as an independent candidate. Besides Karunanidhi's home constituency of Tiruvarur, the 17 other seats slated for bypolls were won by AIADMK in 2016, a thumping victory for the late Jayalalithaa’s party.

However, the AIADMK’s hold gradually eroded due to factionalism in her party following her death. This first took root when Panneerselvam rebelled against the growing clout of VK Sasikala in his "Dharmayudh" in early 2017. By September that year, Dhinakaran had pulled out 18 of his loyalists in protest against the merger of the Panneerselvam and Palaniswami factions. The AIADMK has been facing a constant threat to its strength in the state Assembly for over 17 months now.

The bypoll is an acid test for the Edappadi K Palaniswami government and also Leader of Opposition MK Stalin as this will be the first election held in the absence of two tall leaders — J Jayalalithaa and M Karunanidhi

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| Edited by: Angana Chakrabarti
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