After a three-day delay, the ruling AIADMK announced its presidium chairman E. Madhusudhanan as the candidate for RK Nagar byelection. However, victory prospects of the senior leader are slim as it will be a three-corner contest.
Madhusudhanan's candidature was announced three days after filing of nominations began. All the three candidates—from AIADMK, DMK and T.T.V. Dhinakaran—who contested the byelection in April will be in fray. Besides, there will also be a BJP candidate. The constituency has just over two lakh voters.
Interestingly, the constituency in the north of Chennai, which was a VVIP constituency till December last year, has seen three elections since 2016. In 2016, former chief minister J. Jayalalithaa won from here with a margin of 39,500 votes. After her demise, a byelection was held in April, but the Election Commission countermanded it after allegations of cash distribution to voters.
Then came the high profile I-T raids at Health Minister C. Vijayabaskar’s house. Vijayabaskar, along with Chief Minsiter Edappadi K. Palaniswami and other ministers had reportedly managed the election for their then candidate Dhinakaran. O. Panneerselvam, who was then leading a breakaway faction of the AIADMK, had fielded Madhusudhanan, a party veteran hailing from the same constituency.
Now, with the Election Commission announcing byelection to the RK Nagar constituency, Madhusudhanan and four others, including former MP N. Balaganga and former minister Gokula Indira sought tickets. According to sources, Madhusudhanan was chosen despite much politics and rumblings within the party. “Yes, he belongs to the Panneerselvam camp. But equations will change over the days. The infighting within the party will come to light even during the campaign,” said a party insider.
More than the fight between AIADMK-DMK and Dhinakaran, this byelection will be testing waters for many leaders in the making in Tamil Nadu. For the chief minister and his cabinet colleague Panneerselvam, it will be a fight to finish to retain the reigns of the party, for Dhinakaran it will be fight to assert his political career and for DMK’s M.K. Stalin this will be first election without his father in the lead.
More than an election that which can bring out the people’s outlook against the government, the victory will determine the organisational capacity of the parties in the fray. According to Raveendran Thuraisamy, political analyst, “the organising capacity in AIADMK has gone beyond a point, even beyond a point wherein Alagiri could get the DMK win Thirumangalam bypolls win. In fact, DMK too is not in a position to challenge these poll malpractices.”
For instance, the 40,000 votes that DMK got removed from the voters' list for duplication is not likely to bring victory to DMK. Sources say, a few thousands of these names have come in to the voters list again. And again the AIADMK managed to win in the earlier bypolls to Thanjavur, Aravkurichi and Thiruparankunram, even when it was unclear if Jayalalitha would come back to life from hospital. AIADMK won 55 per cent votes in these three constituencies. Given the unwritten rule that the ruling party will win any byelection, the AIADMK under EPS and OPS now will not give up. But for Tamil Nadu’s opposition leader, “its a prestigious issue as it will be testing waters for his leadership in the party,” says Thuraisamy.