Former Rajya Sabha MP and AIADMK general secretary VK Sasikala's nephew TTV Dinakaran has been chosen as the party's candidate for the by-election to the Radha Krishnan Nagar seat.
The by-election is being held on April 12 to fill the vacancy caused by the death of former Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa.
Appointed deputy general secretary by Sasikala before her imprisonment, Dinakaran announced he would win by a margin of 50,000 votes as RK Nagar is considered a traditional party stronghold.
Frustrated in her ambition to capture power following her conviction by the Supreme Court in the assets case, Sasikala got her proxy Edappadi Palaniswami appointed Chief Minister with the support of 122 MLAs. Simultaneously, she brought her nephew Dinakaran back into the party as her deputy to ensure that he should be ready to take over from Palaniswami when the time was ripe.
By throwing his hat in the ring, Dinakaran has signaled that he would take over from the pliant Palaniswami after winning the election.
It is not going to be that easy. Last January, the Madras High Court upheld the fine of Rs 25 crore imposed on him by the Enforcement Directorate in a 1996 case relating to money laundering and violation of foreign exchange regulations.
Besides, the rival faction of the AIADMK led by former Chief Minister O Pannerselvam has petitioned the Election Commission challenging Sasikala’s elevation as general secretary as she had not been a member for a continuous period of five years as stipulated by the party rules.
This was because Sasikala was expelled by Jayalalithaa in 2012. She was re-admitted only in 2013. Dinakaran was re-admitted by Sasikala after the passing of Jayalalithaa in December 2016.
When Dinakaran replied to the notice sent by the Election Commission to the Bengaluru jail where Sasikala is lodged, it said that he had no authority to represent her.
Dinakaran is pinning his hopes on the fact that the AIADMK has been winning in RK Nagar continuously since 2001. That is because of a combination of factors. It was represented by Isari Velan of the AIADMK in 1977 in its debut election. In the next two elections, the seat was won by the Congress with AIADMK support.
The DMK wrested the seat from the AIADMK in 1989 only to lose it to AIADMK again in 1991. Then the winner was E Madhoosudhanan who is now the presidium chairman of the rival Pannerselvam faction. The DMK wrested the seat in 1996.
Sekhar Babu, who won the seat for the AIADMK in 2001 and 2006, is now with the DMK.
The AIADMK retained it in 2011 and the winner vacated it in 2015 for Jayalalitha when she opted to contest from a safe seat. She had been disqualified in September 2014 after a special Bengaluru court convicted her in the assets case. She could contest only after her acquittal by the Karnataka High Court in March 2015. She retained the seat in the 2016 Assembly election.
On both the occasions, the DMK gave a tough fight to Jaya.
The passing of Jaya in December 2016 and the Supreme Court’s recent judgment that she was equally guilty of corruption along with co-accused Sasikala, have dramatically changed the equations.
The DMK has fielded Marudu Ganesh, a little known contender. However, the star campaigner will be the party’s working president M K Stalin who has already challenged the confidence vote won by the Palaniswami government in the Assembly and the Madras High Court has asked the Assembly secretary to provide video clippings of the proceedings of that day.
The Congress has already pledged support to the DMK. Dinakaran has appealed for support from the BJP and the People’s Welfare Front comprising the CPI, the MDMK and the Viduthalai Chiruthaigal.
The OPS faction will have to contest the by- election to prove that it is the true inheritor of the Jaya legacy, whatever it means to the voters. It may field Madhusoodhanan who has represented the seat once.
Buoyed by the stupendous victory of the BJP in the elections in UP and Uttarakhand, and the fact that the party has upstaged Congress to capture power in Goa, state unit president Tamilisai Soundarajan has said the Modi factor will be reflected in Tamil Nadu also. The BJP has no representation in the Assembly as of now.
Dinakaran hopes that a multi-cornered contest and division of opposition vote will help him cruise home safely.
But he has to reckon with the widespread resentment against the Mannargudi clan, which includes him as we as Sasikala, as they are seen as usurpers.
The election could be a deciding factor in the tussle between the rival factions within the AIADMK.