Embarrassing defeat for DMK in Tamil Nadu byelections

Published : October 24, 2019 15:13 IST

Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami, campaigning for the Vikravandi byelection at Thumbur near Villupuram district on October 17. Photo: S. S. Kumar

DMK president M.K. Stalin campaigning for his party candidate for the Vikravandi byelection at T. Palayam near Villupuram district on October 18. Photo: S.S. Kumar

The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and the Congress slid to a shock defeat in the two Assembly byelections in Tamil Nadu, raising questions over the opposition narrative that the people were fed up with the puppet regime of Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami. The victories further strengthen the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) government, which went past the simple majority mark in May 2019 itself with the victory of nine of its candidates in the Assembly byelections held at that time.

For the DMK-Congress combine, the slide that began in the Vellore Lok Sabha constituency continues. In Vellore, the DMK candidate managed to scrape through with just over 8,000-plus votes in the election held in August although most of the DMK-Congress candidates won with massive margins in 38 constituencies in the May Lok Sabha election. In the run-up to the byelections in the two Assembly constituencies, one of DMK’s most senior leaders, Durai Murugan, asserted that the byelections would be an indicator of what was in store in the 2021 general election for Tamil Nadu.

In Vikravandi, Muthamizhselvan, the AIADMK candidate, riding on the support of the Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK), which has its base among the Vanniyars in northern Tamil Nadu, won with a massive margin against the DMK candidate in a straight fight. A few political observers were of the opinion that the DMK candidate, a confidant of the local Villupuram district secretary K. Ponmudi, was not popular in the area and he should not have been fielded. “If Anniyur Siva was fielded, results wouldn’t have been so bad,” tweeted Sriram, a political observer who also conducts surveys on various aspects in the State.

In Nanguneri, the Congress candidate, Ruby Manoharan, who was all at sea from the time the campaign kicked off because he had never served the party at the grass-roots level, could not run an effective campaign. Also, because of the unpleasant manner in which the Congress was allotted the seat—after a vocal and open demand in a Congress meeting that the party should “fight” and get the right to contest the seat—the support from the local DMK leaders was lukewarm. The AIADMK’s Narayanan won the seat comfortably.

“This is a great victory for the AIADMK,” Minister D. Jayakumar told the media. “This gives great happiness for the AIADMK cadre and the people of Tamil Nadu. The DMK leader had stated that the AIADMK was a communal party. The people of the State in the north and the south, in Vikravandi in the north and Nanguneri in the south, have given a resounding reply to him,” he added.

After it was clear that the AIADMK had sealed its victory, Palaniswami visited the party headquarters in Chennai to a rousing welcome. He distributed sweets to party cadre even as jubilant partymen hailed him as the saviour of the AIADMK.

Now that the distraction of the byelection is over, the focus is on the result of the Radhapuram seat, where a recount was ordered by the Madras High Court as the DMK candidate M. Appavu had alleged in his petition that he lost the election because of irregularities in the counting process in the 2016 Assembly election. The Supreme Court had stayed the announcement of the result. The results are expected to be announced any day.

The Supreme Court is yet to decide on a 2017 case involving Deputy Chief Minister O. Paneerselvam, and 11 MLAs who violated a whip and voted against the AIADMK. The Speaker had failed to take action against the erring MLAs. The case is now in the Supreme Court.

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