RK Nagar bypoll enters dead heat: OPS faction parades Amma's mock coffin
With just six days to go for the by-election to the RK Nagar Assembly constituency in Tamil Nadu, the two AIADMK factions seem to be resorting to desperate measures.
The O Panneerselvam faction paraded a dummy dead body of the late AIADMK leader J Jayalalithaa placed inside a coffin. On the other hand, there are allegations that TTV Dinakaran, of the VK Sasikala faction, is banking on cash-for-votes.
The Opposition is crying foul while the DMK says the two factions are out to get the polls postponed.
Locked in a no-holds-barred fight with the Sasikala-Dinakaran faction, the Panneerselvam camp took out a mock funeral procession of Jayalalitha in what was a barely disguised attempt to get sympathy votes.
The functionaries of the faction placed a dummy of Jaya on a coffin and covered it with a green sari and the tri-colour to recall her last journey. The dummy was an eerie replica of Jayalalithaa’s mortal remains that had been kept for public homage at Rajaji Hall.
On the so-called hearse was a partyman – former Minister K Pandiarajan.
The OPS camp’s main promise is if it captures power, it will order a probe into the circumstances leading to Jaya’s death after spending 75 days in Apollo Hospital last December.
Dinakaran has called the mock funeral a disgrace to the Jaya’s legacy, DMK Rajya Sabha member Kanimozhi has said : "They have shown disrespect to their leader. You can't do anything for the sake of votes."
As the by-election is to fill the vacancy caused by the Amma's death, the two factions are desperately fighting for her legacy.
DMK working president MK Stalin, however, is not focussing on Jaya but on the two factions as speaking ill of the dead won't go down well with the people.
Beisdes DMK and two factions of AIADMK, BJP, CPM and DMDK of actor Vijayakanth are in the fray. The BJP has fielded composer-director Gangai Amaran. He was chosen because he is a familiar face and he was a victim of the Jaya-Sasikala regime’s property grabbing spree. His bungalow in Old Mahabalipuram was literally snatched out of his hands. He was also a key witness in the disproportionate assets case against the duo.
However as a candidate, he has turned to be a damp squib. He has hardly spoken anything substantial. Probably State BJP president Tamilisai Sundararajan has asked him to focus on canvassing for votes as he has a tendency to burst into a song at the slight pretext.
This bypoll is going to decide the fate of Tamil Nadu politics. If Dinakaran wins, he will take over from dummy Chief Minister Edapaddi Palanisamy. If he loses, the puppet government could fall.
With the official machinery at his command, he is spending crores in this election. Apparently, the going rate is Rs 4000 per vote in a constituency which has a total electorate of over two lakh.
If a family has five votes, it will get a tidy sum of Rs 20,000 which will come in handy to pay school fees and meet other expenses. In a comical touch to this bizarre drama, some of the voters who got the money have found they have been given fake 2,000-rupee notes.
The Pannerselvam group reckons that if its candidate E Madusoodhan gets more votes than Dinakaran, it will lead to desertion of MLAs who are now supporting the Edapaddi government. At the moment it has 122 MLAs, barely five more than the majority. Even if a few MLAs change sides, the government will fall.
That is what Stalin is also banking on. He feels that RK Nagar bypoll will decide if Tamil Nadu is headed for an early Assembly election or not.
The CPM and the BJP say the Election Commission should countermand the election if it is not able to check cash distribution.
Dinakaran, however, says he will win hands down irrespective of when the election is held. He claims that DMK as well the Modi government are behind the OPS group. The Y category security given to Panneerselvan is being seen as an indication of that.
The Election Commission is going all out to ensure free and fair elections. It has transferred scores of top police officials and is likely to bring in Central forces during polling. But the central forces can only prevent bogus voting and booth capturing. The money distribution has already been distributed.
After the last election, former CEC T S Krishnamoorthy said that he had never seen such large-scale distribution of money anywhere in India.
The DMK reckons that money can’t decide the election result, as AIADMK is divided after Jaya's demise.
In 2015, Jaya polled 1.67 lakh votes while the main CPI rival got a mere 9,000. The DMK stayed away from that election.
However, it contested in 2016 and Jaya still managed to retain the seat. But she got 97,000 against 50,000 polled by DMK.
Stalin feels DMK can romp home if it retains its core as the AIADMK.
The election is scheduled for April 12 and the campaign will end on April 10.