Missing Star Power: Why TN Bypolls Are AIADMK & DMK’s Last Chance
Bypolls for four Assembly constituencies in Tamil Nadu will be held on 19 May, and the counting will be done on the same day as the Lok Sabha poll results – 23 May. The big question, is ‘Who will win in Tamil Nadu?’ But before that can be answered, you have to understand the Celestial Mathematics of Tamil Politics.
Counting the Seats
See, in total there are 234 Assembly seats. Two years ago, 18 AIADMK MLAs were disqualified. Then two MLAs passed away. One them died just a few months ago, due to a heart attack.
Then two more AIADMK MLAs who defected were again disqualified. Now there are only 212 seats. 22 seats are vacant. So bypolls are being conducted to fill these 22 seats. For 18 seats, the bypolls were conducted on 18 April. For the remaining four constituencies – Thiruparankundram, Aravakurichi, Sulur and Ottapidaram – 19 May is the voting day.
Why Were 18 MLAs Disqualified?
After former CM Jayalalithaa passed away in December 2016, the AIADMK government was asked to prove majority in the House. By then the party had split into three factions – Edappadi Palanisamy's faction, O Panneerselvam's faction, and TTV Dhinakaran's faction. The factions of Edappadi and Panneerselvam came together to continue the status quo government.
Just before the floor test in the Assembly, 18 MLAs jumped to TTV Dhinakaran's faction of the AIADMK. Classic case of horse trading. And the horses, I mean the MLAs, were housed in a resort in Courtallam.
They were then disqualified under the Anti-Defection Law.
TN Politics Without Jayalalithaa & Karunanidhi is Like Breakfast Without Idli & Dosa
Can you imagine breakfast without Idli and Dosa?
In the absence of Jayalalithaa and Karunanidhi, the AIADMK and the DMK have been reduced to a Pongal breakfast-like scene.
It does the job, but dulls the senses.
So this election is the last chance for both the parties to assert themselves, in the absence of their supreme leaders. The AIADMK right now hangs by a paper thin majority of 110 seats. The DMK has 97. For the AIADMK to stay in power, it needs eight more seats, to get to 118. The DMK on the other hand, has to win 21 seats out of the 22 in this by-election, to bring down the government.
It looks like an easy victory for the AIADMK, but the stars are not easy to read! Double anti-incumbency, in-fighting within the party, no clear leader figure, association with BJP – ALL these factors go against the AIADMK.
In the Lok Sabha elections, almost all of the exit polls, including Times Now VMR in English language media and Chanakya in the regional language point to a DMK victory in the Assembly elections. But I'm not sure how DMK giving 9 seats to the Congress in Tamil Nadu is going to help either the party or the Congress.
As far as the bypolls are concerned, the margin of victory for the AIADMK is much higher. But the outcome of the bypolls is still very hard to predict, again because of a number of factors:
They're dependent on the individual MLAs and the spread of their Sambar in their respective constituencies.
Also, according the same opinion polls, the public feels little guilt when it comes to taking cash for votes. Accepting cash from multiple parties and then voting for the party of their choice has become the norm in a number of areas.
Kamal Haasan's Makkal Needhi Maiyam, Seeman's Naam Tamilar Katchi, and TTV Dhinakaran's AMMK will all eat into precious votes. But this time too, the battle is between Jayalalithaa's spirit and the ghost of Karunanidhi.