Battling a newly formed Opposition alliance,anti-incumbency and several charges against its Government in the state and its ministers at the Centre,the ruling DMK registered a mammoth victory in the Thirumangalam Assembly bypoll,the results of which,announced on Monday,is expected to have far-reaching consequences both in terms of alliances and within the party.
DMK candidate Latha Adhiyaman romped home with a lead of nearly 40,000 votes,while her direct rival,M Muthuramalingam,could secure only a little above the same figure. But for the top three candidates,23 candidates lost their deposit. The election witnessed a record polling of 89.89 per cent.
The Opposition alliance had won the last election in 2006 with a margin of 4,144 votes a margin that the ruling alliance wiped off and multiplied nearly 10 times.
Even as the DMK camp erupted into a cheer after coming out successfully from a difficult election,AIADMK general secretary and former CM J Jayalalithaa slammed the result as not a public mandate but a victory of money and muscle power,a charge she had maintained right through the campaign.
Latha was ahead of her rivals right from first round,a tally that continued in the subsequent rounds of counting to finally end at 79,422 about double of Muthuramalingam who came second with 40,156 votes.
The bigger ones among the smaller outfits,the DMDK and AISMK both floated by actor-politicians faired poorly. DMDKs T Dhanapandian retained his third position,as in the last election,but saw vote erosion from 19,970 to 13,136. The AISMK,facing the first election since its recent formation lost even the deposit money.
The run up to the election,necessitated by the death of MLA Veera Elavarasan of the MDMK,saw one of the most charged up campaigns ever in the state,as the AIADMK decided to take the seat from its minor ally to pitch itself directly against the ruling party.
Being the ruling party,it was prestige not power that was the concern for the DMK,which has been under fire for its handling of the worst power crisis that Tamil Nadu ever faced; charges of corruption and nepotism against its ministers and also pulls from various sides from within the Karunanidhi family.
Also,the stature of Karunanidhis elder son MK Azhagiri as a quasi-power centre of southern districts coupled with charges of rowdyism raised against him by Opposition here electoral issues this time.
However,it was the change in alliance composition that was the major challenge that the DMK had to surmount. The CPI(M) and the CPI had parted ways with the ruling party for its support to the UPA,while relations with the PMK,the third biggest party in the DMK-led DPA,was indifferent at best. Having come out of the DPA,the Left parties joined hands with the AIADMK; the PMK,on the other hand,was expected to join the Opposition though it remained non-committal to either fronts in this election.
Now that the DMK has won the election after a decade and that too,with a thumping margin,there could be significant changes in state politics. This would make PMK rethink before joining the Opposition bandwagon for the coming Parliamentary polls. The AIADMK-Left-MDMK combine,considered formidable during its launch,will have to rethink its strategies to take on the Government for the coming general elections. The DMDK and AISMK stand on the backfoot in terms of the coming elections.
Apart from the political ramifications,the victory will have its bearings on internal politics of the DMK,with MK Azhagiris stature within the party growing many folds. This is the third bypoll victory since the DMK assumed power in 2006,all three held in Madurai region where Azhagiris writ rules and all won by the ruling alliance.
This hat-trick victory is expected to increase the clamour for a plum party post for Azhagiri,who was initially unwilling to work during this election citing health reasons sources said he was unhappy with the candidate selection. Azhagiris rise does not augur well for Local Administration Minister MK Stalin,Karunanidhis younger son and prince-in-waiting. If rumours are to be believed,Rajya Sabha member Kanimozhi is another family member who is not happy with the rise of another power centre within the family. Kanimozhi,the woman factor that is being offered as a counter to Jayalalithaas sway over the women electorate,was incidentally absent during the entire campaign,despite her party fielding a woman candidate.
Bypolls have almost always stood with the ruling alliances in the past,and lessons from history suggests that this may not have any direct bearing on the coming Lok Sabha elections,which the DMK-led alliance swept in 2004. In the most recent example,the AIADMK was able to win Sattankulam bypoll while it was in power in 2003,a victory that encouraged it to face the election alone.
Though the party increased its vote share marginally,the DMK stitched an impeccable alliance that went on to garner all 39 seats from Tamil Nadu.