A lot is at stake for Edappadi Palaniswami, MK Stalin and Dhinakaran as the exercise is likely to be a 3-cornered contest
A lot is at stake for Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami, DMK president MK Stalin and AMMK leader TTV Dhinakaran, while the rest in the state polity would only be observing from the gallery. For Palaniswami, who was buoyed by the favourable High Court verdict in 18 MLAs disqualification case, the by-election seems to be an undesirable political adventure he cannot avoid, for every seat (except Tiruvarur vacated by DMK’s Karunanidhi), a defeat in the AIADMK kitty would be a step backward in his political journey.
The bigger the number of seats the “Two Leaves” loses, larger would be the political turmoil for him. Though there may not be an imminent threat to his government, unless the DMK wins most of the 20 seats to stake claim to form government, the threat Palaniswami could face might be within the party, where the sleeper cells of Dhinakaran might reconsider their loyalty based on the magnitude of the victory/defeat.
It is no surprise that some supporters of VK Sasikala and Dhinakaran, who had hosted Vijayabhaskar and even Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam recently, in the AIADMK, might not hesitate to switch camps in the event of the continuance of government being threatened.
That Palaniswami regime had cited weather to defer one (Tiruvarur) of the two bypolls, let alone the 18 seats, should explain the chills by-polls give to the ruling dispensation. Ironically, the same deferment of bypolls, which the EPS-OPS combine silently celebrated, could backfire if it were held along with the ensuing Lok Sabha election due in April-May 2019.
The buzz is that a belligerent DMK, which seems to have an edge in the Parliament polls now, could upset the applecart in the rival AIADMK camp by stealing a few additional Assembly seats if it is held along with the Parliamentary election. Stalin, who would be facing a precursor to the general election, first election since becoming party president, would as much be rising from the shadow of RK Nagar poll drubbing and asserting his leadership credentials as forming the next government.
Agreeing that it would be advantage DMK if bypolls were held along with LS election, political commentator Ravindran Doraisamy said the DMK would secure a few seats like Sholingur, Tiruporur and Poonamallee in northern Tamil Nadu, but it would be an uphill task in Vanniyar dominant Harur or Papireddipatty and south. “Dhinarakan will strengthen his political base by securing a few seats for his newly formed AMMK.The by election will not trigger a regime change,” Doraisamy added.
Unlike the ruling and principal opposition parties, Dhinakaran would use the by election to salvage some pride lost in the MLA disqualification case and create a dent in the AIADMK by securing a few seats and influencing the morale of MLAs in his party. It was not uncommon to find Dhinakaran supporters to argue that partnering with the DMK to unseat EPS-OPS would be a political suicide which would affect them in the long run.
Sources in both the DMK and Dhinakaran camps did not mind confiding that moves were on to poach a few from the ruling dispensation.
Political commentator professor Bernard D Sami said, “The ruling AIADMK is not ready to face by-elections. The fluid political situation in the state will continue as the DMK seems unlikely to win all seats to capture power. The Parliament elections will have a strong bearing on the Assembly bypoll, which will not be held anytime soon. Political situation will not change unless a power shift happens at the Centre. The ruling BJP will also favour only a relatively popular Dhinakaran instead of an unpopular EPS-OPS combine for the Lok Sabha election.”
Pertinently, if the bypolls were to be held along with or close to the LS polls, alliance would also come into play. “It is too early to predict. A formidable alliance by the opposition, in the instant case DMK, and its campaigns will swing the votes against the ruling AIADMK,” a political commentator who did not wish to be named opined, concurring simultaneous polls would be detrimental to the incumbent government.