The victory of the ruling AIADMK in Nanguneri and Vikravandi by-elections to the Tamil Nadu Assembly is confirmation of the people’s acceptance of Edappadi Palaniswamy as Chief Minister and O Panneerselvam as chief coordinator of the party. It also dispels the general opinion that an electoral alliance with the BJP is a liability for the AIADMK. Even the late charismatic leader of AIADMK and four- time Chief Minister J Jayalalitha found to her cost that electoral alliance with the BJP was a handicap to her party in the 2004 general election.
That was the only time her party drew a blank in her long, illustrious political career. When Palaniswamy was sworn in as Chief Minister in February 2017, no one expected him to last six months in office. Every minister in his government, including himself, is under the scanner for some corrupt deal or scam. But he has survived and consolidated his position, thanks to the unflinching support extended by the BJP government at the Centre. The AIADMK sought the help of BJP leader and former Union minister Pon Radhakrishnan in these two by-elections.
The PMK, DMDK and the BJP are members of the AIADMK-led alliance. In Nanguneri, the BJP and the RSS wield considerable influence. Palaniswamy describes the by-election victory as a certificate of commendation given by the people of Tamil Nadu. He was conferred an honorary degree of Doctor of Letters by the Dr MGR Educational and Research Institute. Describing Palaniswamy as a great legislator and an eminent parliamentarian, the citation said Palaniswamy was a “world renowned politician”.
Although the victory of the AIADMK will have no bearing on the stability of the State government, Palaniswamy has made the contest a prestige issue. It turned out to be a grievous setback for the Opposition DMK and its ally, the Congress. MK Stalin, leader of the DMK, relied heavily on his son Udhayanidhi Stalin, secretary of the DMK’s youth wing, to retain the Vikravandi seat. The people are no longer in favour of dynastic politics. The Nanguneri seat was held by H Vasanthakumar of the Congress, senior partner in the DMK-led alliance. Following his election to the Lok Sabha this summer, he vacated his Assembly seat.
But the party could not retain the seat despite the best efforts of the DMK. In the Lok Sabha election, the DMK alliance won 38 of the 39 seats in Tamil Nadu. The Nanguneri and Vickravandi byelections are viewed as forerunner to the 2021 Assembly election. Recording of an economic growth of 8.1 per cent in 2018-19 against the national average of 6.81 per cent despite deficit north-east moon and havoc caused by Gaja cyclone has boosted the image of the Palaniswamy government.