CREATING ELECTORAL history in Tamil Nadu and dealing an embarrassing blow to the ruling AIADMK group and the main opposition party DMK, ousted AIADMK leader T T V Dinakaran Sunday won the bypoll to the R K Nagar Assembly constituency in Chennai, defeating his nearest rival by over 40,000 votes.
Dinakaran, who got 89,013 votes, became the first Independent candidate to win a bypoll in the state, claiming 50.32 per cent of the 1,76,890 votes polled. The ruling AIADMK’s veteran leader E Madhusudhanan came second with 48,306 votes, while DMK’s N Maruthu Ganesh got only 24,651 votes to forfeit his deposit.
The victory of Dinakaran, the nephew of jailed AIADMK leader V K Sasikala, throws up the possibility of a fresh realignment in the state’s politics after he was removed in September as the party’s deputy general secretary by the ruling faction headed by Chief Minister E K Palaniswamy and Deputy CM O Panneerselvam.
Speaking to reporters in Madurai after claiming the seat that fell vacant after the death of J Jayalalithaa, Dinakaran said, “We are the true AIADMK… the people of RK Nagar have elected Amma’s successor.”
Dinakaran described the win as “the best gift for the 1.5 crore party supporters” on the 30th death anniversary of the party’s founder M G Ramachandran, popularly known as MGR.
The BJP, which is not a significant political player in the state, remained on the fringe with its candidate K Nagarajan receiving only 1,417 votes, less than the 2,373 votes registered under NOTA.
Dinakaran’s victory caps a remarkable comeback for the Sasikala faction leader. In June, he obtained bail after being jailed in Delhi for 40 days on charges of allegedly trying to bribe Election Commission officials to obtain the AIADMK’s official two-leaves symbol. In September, Speaker P Dhanapal disqualified 19 AIADMK MLAs supporting him. Last month, Dinakaran’s rebel group lost the party’s election symbol and contested under the pressure cooker banner.
“A candidate determines the symbol. I have already said the ‘two leaves’ will be a success symbol only if it was with Puratchi Thalaivar (MGR) and Amma (Jayalalithaa),” said Dinakaran. In the last assembly elections in May 2016, the late Jayalalithaa got 97,218 votes in R K Nagar against DMK’s 57,673.
Stung by the defeat, the ruling AIADMK group blamed “a secret pact” between DMK chief M K Stalin and Dinakaran. Stalin, meanwhile, blamed the EC for his party’s setback.
“This defeat is not a setback to the AIADMK but the outcome of a secret pact between DMK leader Stalin and Dinakaran,” said Palaniswami and Panneerselvam in a joint statement. The two leaders also called for a review meeting on Monday to discuss the defeat.
“Not DMK, it was the Election Commission that faced a Himalayan defeat in the R K Nagar election,” Stalin said in a statement. He accused the EC, police and other government agencies of being “mute spectators to huge hawala transactions” in the campaign.
The R K Nagar bypoll was originally slotted in April, four months after the death of Jayalalithaa, but was cancelled by the EC following allegations of voters being bribed. Last month, days after Dinakaran was allotted his symbol, the EC seized a truckload of pressure cookers from the area. It also seized more than Rs 30 lakh in cash during the final leg of the campaign.
In the final results released on Sunday, of the over 50 candidates who contested, only Dinakaran and Madhusudhanan retained their deposits. Speaking to The Indian Express, a senior DMK leader said, “Many of our sympathisers voted for Dinakaran. We managed to retain only cadre votes.”
With his victory taking shape, Dinakaran missed his morning flight from Thiruvananthapuram to Chennai and had to travel by road to Madurai to catch the next flight around 10 am. By the time he reached Chennai, before noon, the verdict was clear.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Dinakaran’s propaganda leader and close aide, Nanjil Sampath, said, “The constant attacks by the AIADMK state government and the BJP government at the Centre helped Dinakaran in this historic victory. This bypoll result sends out a strong message to the BJP and a warning against the way in which they meddled in the state’s politics in the last year. Ordinary people found that Dinakaran was the best leader to take on the BJP.”