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BJP’s quick fix of AIADMK may not help in bypoll

Barring the infamous RK Nagar 2.0 bypoll, the opposition had not even a semblance of success in such elections in nearly two decades

BJP’s quick fix of AIADMK may not help in bypoll
TTV Dhinakaran

CHENNAI: The quick fix engineered by the BJP in the divided AIADMK is no guarantee to success in the February 27 bypolls, at least going by polls in the last decade and a half.

Barring the infamous RK Nagar 2.0 bypoll, which TTV Dhinakaran won handsdown in December 2017 and the infamous mini-Assembly poll in which the then opposition DMK had won 13 of the 22 seats in 2019, the opposition had not even a semblance of success in bypolls in the state in nearly two decades.

The last time an opposition party managed to outdo a ruling party in a bypoll was in 2004 when the then opposition DMK’s V Ganesan had wrested control of Mangalur (VCK chief Thol Thirumavalavan’s resignation necessitated the re-election) bypoll during the 2001-06 AIADMK regime. Prior to that, AIADMK led J Jayalalithaa and CPM had managed to win in Natham and Thiruvattaru bypolls in 1991, respectively.

Aside from the aforesaid bypolls, the two Dravidian parties have easily manufactured public mandate during bypolls alternatively during their respective stints in power till 2017. It is no tough guess that the ensuing Erode East would only be a daunting task for the AIADMK led by its interim general secretary Edappadi K Palaniswami, unmindful of his challenger O Panneerselvam blinking at the nick of time, obviously, at the persuasion of the mighty BJP.

From the infamous Gummidipoondi and Sathaankulam bypolls of the 2001-06 Jayalalithaa regime to the notorious 2009 Tirumangalam bypoll where a formula was perfected in 2006-11 DMK regime, the dubious distinction of manufacturing mandates in bypolls in TN have a long history. While the distribution of gold earrings hidden in laddoos stood out in Gummidipoondi, distribution of hot cash for votes was the signature mark of Tirumangalam. And it did not stop there. The subsequent 2012 Pudukkottai bypoll, which the DMK boycotted, had put the state on the national political map for all wrong reasons after voters blocked the highway demanding cash for votes. Both the Dravidian majors also suffered the blemish of losing deposit at Pennagaram (AIADMK) and RK Nagar (DMK) in bypolls.

Political critics have already started second-guessing that Erode East would be no different. With regard to other smaller players, the less said the better. In fact, more than voter inducement, some critics opine that the disharmony in the AIADMK and its continuous control by the BJP has made the task easy for the ruling alliance.

Professor and former head of department of politics of University of Madras, Ramu Manivannan says. “Even the quick fix secured between the OPS and EPS camp by the BJP at the eleventh hour will not disturb the prospects of the DMK-led alliance in Erode East. It might have stemmed the division of the anti-DMK or anti-government vote bank to an extent. Nonetheless, the DMK would easily see the election through, because OPS is a bigger threat than the DMK for Edappadi Palaniswami. Likewise, EPS is a bigger threat than the DMK for OPS.”

“Through the Erode East by-election, the BJP has done a temporary fix to the AIADMK problem. In a way, the BJP has got EPS into accommodating OPS for the by-election. OPS, who has lost the influence and clout he had five years ago by hobnobbing with the BJP, has been made to concede the claims for Two Leaves symbol to rival EPS camp for the by-election. The intention of the BJP has been fulfilled. The BJP somehow hopes to sustain the ‘fix’ for the 2024 Lok Sabha election,” he added.

“Temporarily securing the Two Leaves symbol or forcing OPS to withdraw his candidate will not change the electoral dynamics in Erode as the AIADMK has gradually lost the confidence of the people by continuing with the BJP. Apart from the advantage of money and power the ruling party enjoys, AIADMK’s division and lack of imagination would work to the DMK alliance’s advantage. Also, the election does not result in any significant political change, which gives a reason for the voters to overlook them,” the professor added.

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