Tamil Nadu appears set for another turmoil with bye-elections to 20 assembly seats getting necessitated after the Madras High Court upheld the conviction of 18 AIADMK MLAs owing allegiance to rebel leader TTV Dhinakaran. Had Dhinakaran got his MLAs to challenge the Madras High court order, then the state government would have got more time as the appeal would take time in the Supreme Court.
On Wednesday, Dhinakaran declared his MLAs would rather face elections than appeal against the High Court that upheld disqualification by the assembly speaker P Dhanpal in September for anti-party activities.
All political parties have begun preparing for the eventuality of bye-elections to 20 vacancies, including in two seats whose incumbents died. After the announcement by the disqualified MLAs they will not appeal against the order, the ball now is in the election commission’s court.
The ruling AIADMK has already deployed ministers and senior MLAs in each of the 20 constituencies as it must win most of them for safety and longevity of the government.
The Edapadi Palaniswami government is surviving on a wafer-thin majority, and that too after the magic number came down to 108 following the disqualification of MLAs.
The numbers game can change drastically if the DMK were to win a majority of the seats and the electoral outcome in the ‘mini-general elections’ could lead to a change in the government. The DMK and it’s allies – the Congress and the IUML – have a strength of 97 in the 234 member house.
Which is why the DMK has been campaigning for immediate holding of bye-elections as it stands to gain immensely from the polls due to a weakened AIADMK. Dhinakaran may not be able to win but can certainly damage the chances of the AIADMK if only to “teach the traitors a lesson”.
Then there are superstars, Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan trying their luck in Tamil Nadu politics. Of the duo, only Kamal Haasan has shown an inkling to contest the bye-polls if and when they are held. Rajinikanth is yet to launch a party, but sources close to him indicate that it could happen sometime in December.
Both these superstars would introduce an element of suspense, as it it not yet clear as to which party they would hurt the most. The main battle, either in bye-polls or in 2019 general elections, will be mainly between the two Dravidian majors with the two national parties piggy riding on either of them as alliance partners. Or it would have to go alone if it does not work out for some reason.
For the AIADMK, the going appears to be tough in the bye-polls as it has to fight the public perception that is fronting for the BJP and may tie up before or after Lok Sabha elections.
The DMK has successfully managed to build a public perception that the Edapadi Palaniswami government was in cahoots with the BJP. To counter this, senior AIADMK leader and Lok Sabha deputy speaker M Thambi Durai hints at a secret understanding between the DMK and the BJP.
“It will not be easy for the AIADMK to fight this battle of perception and its existence can be under a threat if the DMK manages to win more than 15 out of the total 20,” said perception strategist and political analyst John Arokiaswamy.
Concurred Prof Ramu Manivannan of the Madras University that the DMK has a chance if it does not muck it up. He does not see much impact of the superstars in the electoral arena other than being bit players offering some entertainment. Rajinikanth is also seen as someone close to the BJP or at least there is a belief that somehow the BJP is working behind the scenes for him.
Film stars need to work in the field for a longer duration to become a success in politics.