TN bypoll: The tough task of increasing the tally

When TTV Dinakaran finally declared that their party is ready to face the public rather than appeal against the disqualification of their legislators, the stage was almost set for unprecedented large-scale by-election in the state. While the ball rolls for a hot contest, debates on the possibility of outcome gains prominence.

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At the recently concluded ruling party preparatory meeting, the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and Deputy Chief Minister emphasised the necessity of winning all the 20 seats and emphasised for a seamless ruling for the remaining period of roughly two and half years.

Reportedly, the attendants in the meet quoted the CM saying, “We have to win at least 7 to 10 seats to continue the reign”.

Thus this was the mood prevailing in the ruling party circles. What emerges from such a ‘minimum’ win target may have multiple dimensions.

It may be to target with less, while winning more seats to claim a handsome victory; or to project lower number to provoke the cadre to work hard to bring in results, or to confuse the opposite camps and make them over-confident.

“Whatever may be the real reason behind those words, the strategy is to keep themselves in the centre of the debate and force competitors to frame strategies based on their moves.”

The ground reality is that the ruling party may find it easier if there is a multi-cornered contest, similar to 2016 General Elections. However, it seems that components of People’s Welfare Alliance (except DMDK and TMC (M)), is now a part of the DMK alliance, at least unofficially. They supported the main opposition party during the RK Nagar bypoll which took place owing to Jayalalithaa’s demise. Their support did not yield essential result as the party had a debacle.

Also Read: TN Legislators disqualification: Why desperation continues for DMK

In such a context, the forthcoming general elections to the Lok Sabha bring MDMK and Left, VCK and other Muslim parties in the fold. This mini-poll which may decide the fate of the AIADMK would give some indications in their strategy before the Lok Sabha poll.

If DMK did not prove its strength and show itself as a serious contender for the state regime, they may have to decide their due course of action. For AIADMK, defeat would seal their fate in the long-run. But is there any scope for such an occurrence?

By-elections and mandates in favour of ruling parties

In TN, similar to other states of India, barring few occasions, ruling parties have always won in the by-elections. This time also a repeat of history would not be a surprise. This usual pattern may pose as positive factor among the ruling party. Hence, they claim a clean sweep. Besides they would like to believe that the split of votes by other prominent rivals may lead the party to grab most of them.

For this we need to take a look at the 2016 General Elections where about eight segments out of the current 20 vacant seats had an impact due to such split of votes. In general, across the state, about 131 seats had split of votes and it went in favour of the incumbent.

After MGR, after a long period of time, the AIADMK under the leadership of Jayalalithaa retained the reign.

The split of votes comprised some leading smaller parties like PMK, DMDK, and MDMK and of course the only national party of BJP too which made such an impact. Needless to say PMK had it in 51 constituencies, and DMDK in 22, MDMK in 7 and BJP in 17 respectively.

Therefore, the ruling party is expecting similar performance by the PMK at 3, MDMK at 1, DMDK at 1, CPM at 1, VCK at 1 and even DMK at 1 in a rare occurrence. In other 10 constituencies, disqualified members had won on massive margins.

“This, in fact, may be one of the reasons that AMMK is favouring a by-election. PMK shall play a vital role in the ensuing elections if the earlier performance is taken into account.”

By an average of 38,000 votes in four constituencies, PMK had a good show. DMDK and MDMK have also shown appreciable performance. At the southern reserved constituency of Ottapidaram Dalit Party, leader Dr. K Krishnasamy had reached number two spot with about 63,000 votes. This time, the ruling party may strike an understanding with personalities to woo their support in other constituencies where they have deep influence. Even, they may let Krishnasamy or any other including PMK leader to win a segment and receive their votes in others. Since the seriousness of the situation is grave, similar strategies by the ruling party cannot be ruled out.

Now, it is almost certain that all the disqualified members would be given tickets to re-contest. What kind of impact it would make in the minds of voters in respective constituencies? There are no guesses. However, the determination from the AMMK seems to be risky as many of the incumbents have won the contest by narrow margins and with the help of third placed contestants.  See as below:

The ruling party can sustain the seats only through retrieving the voter’s confidence in those segments.

Current cyclone relief and rehabilitation measures would certainly play a pivotal role in assessing their integrity. Beyond this, performance of the last one year following the merger of EPS-OPS factions would also be taken into account.

On the other side, the DMK would try its best to win as much as possible. Remarkably, after the war footing measure of the government in providing relief to the cyclone-affected areas, MDMK leader Vaiko appreciated the officials but criticised the ruling party in general.

Considering he is known for his last-minute switch-overs, if the ruling party with the help of centre really accomplishes normalcy in the cyclone-affected areas, then the presumed DMK alliance would see some changes.

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Besides the alliance partners would at least seek some segments since they had proven some influence in few segments in 2016 poll. In particular, MDMK and CPM are on the third place at least in two spots in terms of mostly polled votes and VCK having a sizeable vote bank in the northern region.

The older alliance partner MAMAK and INC would also vouch for some seats, this time. Therefore, the DMK could contest in 13 to 15 seats on its own.

“Above all, the new-age and women voters would decide the outcome since no political party has made any attempt to woo their sympathy. As attacks on women, and unemployment have increased due to several reasons, it would be a challenge to address their demands with pragmatic approach.”

The new voters list would be released in January 2019’s first week which would display the real task ahead for the political parties. Therefore, it is too early to predict the mood prevailing on ground.

The mini assembly poll would lead to a mid-term poll? The suspense continues…