The two by-elections from Vikravandi and Nanguneri to the Tamil Nadu Assembly scheduled for 21 October are not going to make much of a difference to the ruling AIADMK or the Opposition DMK. The outcome is neither going to bring down the AIADMK government of Edappadi Palaniswamy nor will it enable MK Stalin, leader of the Opposition DMK, to occupy Fort St. George.
It could, however, be a forerunner to the 2021 State election, besides helping the AIADMK assess whether its electoral alliance with the BJP is an asset or a hindrance. The Vikravandi seat fell vacant following the death of DMK legislator K Rathnamani and the Nanguneri seat was vacated by Congress legislator H Vasanthakumar on his election to the Lok Sabha from Kanniyakumari.
The AIADMK was coaxed into forging an alliance with the BJP for the Lok Sabha election earlier this year and the alliance drew a blank. Though there was no break in the alliance, the AIADMK kept the BJP out of the August by-election campaign to the Vellore Lok Sabha seat and narrowed the victory margin of the DMK candidate to less than 10,000 votes. Not a mean achievement. In the April General Election, candidates of the DMKled Secular Progressive Alliance trounced candidates of the National Democratic Alliance of the AIADMK and the BJP by massive margins of three to four lakh votes.
The AIADMK wanted to repeat Vellore in Vikravandi and Nanguneri also by keeping the BJP out of its campaign. Former BJP Union minister from Tamil Nadu Pon Radhakrishnan admitted that the AIADMK had not sought its support. But BJP leader Muralidhar Rao managed to inveigle the AIADMK into inviting the saffron party to campaign for its ‘two-leaves’ symbol in the two constituencies in Tamil Nadu.
The BJP and the RSS wield some influence in Nanguneri. Chief Minister Palaniswami and Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam are only puppets in the hands of Prime Minister Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah who are pulling the strings from Delhi, according to the Congress general secretary Sanjay Dutt. The Congress is a senior partner in the DMK-led SPA. Every minister in the AIADMK government is under the scanner for corrupt deals and several controversies.
It is unbecoming of the BJP to be the AIADMK’s alliance partner in Tamil Nadu. Former AIADMK leader and Chief Minister J Jayalalitha had set a tradition of not losing a single byelection when the party was in power in Tamil Nadu. During the April Lok Sabha election, 22 by-elections were held simultaneously to the Assembly in Tamil Nadu. The AIADMK lost 13 by-elections to the DMK. The Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam, a splinter group of the AIADMK led by TTV Dhinakaran, and Makkal Needhi Maiyam of Kamal Haasan, not entering the Vikravandi and the Nanguneri by-elections have greatly improved the chances of the AIADMK candidates. However, the negative impact of the saffron brigade at the hustings could deprive them of victory.