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Once Pongal celebrations are over, political parties in Tamil Nadu are sure to turn their attention towards the Erode East bypoll to be held in a few months. Though former Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami has a good chance of proving his strength in the seat as it lies in the Kongu belt — a long-time AIADMK fortress — the fate of party symbol ‘Two Leaves’ still hangs in the balance, leaving it vulnerable. Will the BJP test the waters by contesting?
Since Erode East was allocated to the Congress in the 2021 Assembly elections, the ruling DMK is likely to allow its ally to field a candidate for the seat. But if the DMK does not contest, the opposition parties gain a major advantage.
Although the AIADMK headed by Palaniswami stands the best chance at winning the seat, it is weaker without its ‘Two Leaves’ symbol. Earlier, the AIADMK had allotted the seat to Tamil Maanila Congress. It could do the same again and totally stay away from the poll race as well.
Although the AIADMK headed by Palaniswami stands the best chance at winning the seat, it is weaker without its ‘Two Leaves’ symbol. Earlier, the AIADMK had allotted the seat to Tamil Maanila Congress. It could do the same again and totally stay away from the poll race as well
As of now, the BJP does not have an alliance with the AIADMK; it stood on its own in the local body elections. Party state president K Annamalai had recently said that his party indeed had the strength to contest alone; so it might just decide to put up a nominee for the Erode East bypoll. If a BJP candidate obtains a sizable chunk of votes, the saffron party could use it to strike a better bargain with its allies in the 2024 Parliament elections.
It could also secure the support of the AIADMK headed by former Chief Minister O Panneerselvam who may not risk fielding his candidate in the seat.
The AIADMK’s best hope for consolidating its factions, mobilising public support and forming alliances to face the 2024 Parliament elections lies in a much-awaited Supreme Court order: that is if such an order breaks the status quo in the AIADMK organisational structure and recognises former Chief Minister O Panneerselvam as the coordinator and former Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami as joint coordinator at the earliest.
As the DMK alliance looks solid and intact whereas the AIADMK seems in disarray, it could erode the opposition party’s votes if the leadership tussle in the party is not resolved. The party already lost the Parliament elections in 2019, Assembly elections in 2021 and the urban local body polls in 2022.
A letter sent by the Election Commission of India to the AIADMK addressing Panneerselvam as coordinator and Palaniswami as joint coordinator — in an invitation to take part in the commission’s meeting to demonstrate remote voting system for migrant workers — clearly shows the current position of the leaders of the party.
Though Palaniswami refused to accept the invitation, the commission reiterated the status quo by sending the invitation for the second time mentioning the same designation. If Palaniswami who controls the party headquarters had accepted the invitation, it would have amounted to accepting the status quo which recognises his rival Panneerselvam as the leader.
As the DMK alliance looks solid and intact whereas the AIADMK seems in disarray, it could erode the opposition party’s votes if the leadership tussle in the party is not resolved. The party already lost the Parliament elections in 2019, Assembly elections in 2021 and the urban local body polls in 2022
It is not known how much time the Supreme Court will take to deliver its verdict in the case against the validity of the AIADMK general council held on July 11 last year. If the apex court upholds the validity of the general council meeting, the election of Palaniswami as interim general secretary would stand, breaking the status quo and ending Panneerselvam’s claim to leadership. However, if the court orders a stay on the election of Palaniswami as interim general secretary and asks the parties to go back to the civil courts, the leadership struggle could go on for a long time.
When Tamil Maanila Congress contested in the constituency in 2021, it was given the ‘Two Leaves’ symbol. If the AIADMK leadership tussle remains undecided till the Erode East bypoll, the party under Palaniswami could ask its ally TMC to contest on an independent symbol. A face-off between the two AIADMK factions can be avoided if both support the TMC candidate.
However, there is the likelihood of Palaniswami backing the TMC with the condition that the party should not take the support of his rival Panneerselvam. As the constituency falls within the Kongu belt, which is considered an AIADMK stronghold, Palaniswami’s AIADMK could help the TMC put on a good performance, reaffirming its popularity in the area.
The byelection to Erode East Assembly seat could be held along with Assembly elections to three north-eastern States in February. But if the Election Commission needs more time to prepare for the polls, the bypoll could be conducted when Karnataka Assembly elections are held in May.
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