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A victory for the ruling AIADMK in the disqualification case against AIADMK MLAs may help the government tide over the crisis momentarily but would face major political hurdles in the long run. To begin with, once the seats are declared vacant if they stand disqualified, the State could be headed for a mini general election in the form of 20 by-elections.

By-polls are already due in Tiruvarur and Tiruparankundram. If 18 more seats fall vacant, by-elections would have to be held simultaneously for 20 constituencies in the State.

If the DMK can win more than half the contests, it could come near 110 seats, within striking distance of the majority mark.  

While chief minister Edappadi Palaniswamy is confident that TTV Dinakaran, AMMK leader, cannot replicate the RK Nagar by-election victory in these constituencies, the by-polls may provide an opportunity to come close to the majority mark. The DMK already has 88 MLAs, and has the support of 8 Congress and one IUML member, taking the total to 97. If the DMK can win more than half the contests, it could come near 110 seats, within striking distance of the majority mark.  Another huge headache for the ruling AIADMK would be tackling the danger from the Dinakaran party and the DMK at the same time, besides bickering within, with aggressive posturing from the O Panneerselvam camp.

The 18 affected MLAs Thangatamilselvan (Andipatti constituency), R. Murugan (Harur), S. Mariappan Kennedy (Manamadurai), K. Karthirkamu (Periyakulam), C. Jayanthi Padmanabhan (Gudiyattam), P. Palaniappan (Pappireddipatti), V. Senthil Balaji (Aravakurichi), S. Muthiah (Paramakudi), P. Vetrivel (Perambur), N.G. Parthiban (Sholingur), M. Kothandapani (Tiruporur), T.A. Elumalai (Poonnamalee), M. Rengasamy (Thanjavur), R. Thangathurai (Nilakottai), R. Balasubramani (Ambur), Ethirkottai S.G. Subramanian (Sattur), R. Sundaraj (Ottapidaram) and K. Uma Maheswari (Vilathikulam) were disqualified by Speaker P Dhanapal on September 18, 2017. STK Jakkaiyan too was disqualified but later retained his membership by an order of the Speaker after the former met Dhanapal.

The by-elections in these 20 constituencies would provide a clear indication of which way the wind is blowing in Tamil Nadu, and could create further shifts in the political equations in the State.

The BJP would be forced to reveal its stand in the State as to whether it would tie-up with the AIADMK or go it alone as in RK Nagar constituency.

The ruling AIADMK would have the opportunity to increase its strength by at least 10 of the 20 seats. Only such a performance could provide confidence to the rank and file of the party that the ruling AIADMK can win elections and retain power in the 2021 elections. A poor performance, especially if the AMMK does well, would cause panic in the AIADMK camp. The DMK, if it wins a majority of the seats, could create the foundation for a change of guard in the State. The DMK has nothing to lose in these by-polls since it was defeated in these constituencies in the 2016 general elections. In fact, the DMK could turn out to be the biggest gainer in the by-elections. With the AIADMK camps split, the DMK could hope to reap rewards.

Some parties which are not part of the DMK-led alliance in the State may look for a tie-up with either the AIADMK, the Dinakaran party, AMMK, or even the parties led by Kamal Haasan and Rajinikanth, if the actors decide in favour of their parties contesting the by-elections. In that sense, the by-elections may also help firm up alliances in the run up to the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

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