AT 39, Tamil Nadu has the fourth highest number of Lok Sabha constituencies in the country. However, if that makes it a valuable pool when it votes come April 18, it’s not just these seats that all eyes are on. The ruling AIADMK’s fate also depends on 18 Assembly seats in which bypolls will be held that day. Whether or not the DMK wins enough to bring the government down, a good performance by it in these constituencies whose fate has been hanging in balance now since September 2017 would further bring under question the legitimacy of the AIADMK regime.
The alliances forged by the DMK and AIADMK are also governed by these 18 seats. While the AIADMK has not shared any of the 18 seats with a partner, it has left half of the 39 Lok Sabha constituencies for the BJP and smaller NDA allies to garner as much of their support as possible. The DMK too is contesting all the 18 Assembly seats, reserving its generosity for Congress and others for the Lok Sabha.
All the 18 Assembly by-elections are likely to see three-corner contests between the DMK, AIADMK and T T V Dhinakaran’s AMMK. Having won by a massive victory from J Jayalalithaa’s R K Nagar seat in December 2017 as an Independent, Dhinakaran is snapping at the AIADMK’s heels. The bypolls had been necessitated due to the MLAs from the 18 seats leaving the AIADMK and joining the Dhinakaran faction. Fifteen of them are in the race on AMMK ticket. Two others are contesting Lok Sabha seats.
The fear of the AIADMK, which had won 37 of the 39 Lok Sabha seats last time — with the BJP, PMK winning one each — is that the Lok Sabha poll effect may reflect on the 18 Assembly constituencies. The 18 seats are scattered across 15 LS constituencies. Click here for more election news
Of the 234-member Tamil Nadu Assembly, currently 22 seats are vacant. After the bypolls, its effective strength would be 230. The AIADMK has 108 MLAs, apart from 3 Independents who won on AIADMK symbol and officially support it but have been leaning towards Dhinakaran. The AIADMK needs to win at least 8 seats to retain a majority.
The DMK-Congress-IUML alliance currently has 97 MLAs. While that puts it within earshot of forming the government should it win enough in the bypolls, DMK sources say the party is not keen on pulling down the beleaguered Edapaddy K Palaniswami government. “Why should we do that when we are sure to get an astounding victory in the Lok Sabha? Let them perish in the next election,” said a leader, adding that for DMK chief Stalin, it doesn’t make sense to scramble a majority just to form a government for two years before the next Assembly elections. The party is confident of winning 35 of the 39 Lok Sabha seats and at least 15 Assembly seats.
A senior AIADMK minister, who has been part of the seat-sharing talks with allies, admitted the party doesn’t share that confidence. “We hope the PMK will help us win at least six bypoll seats. However, there is stigma for being with the BJP.”
The anti-BJP feeling runs high in Tamil Nadu where politics has always had an anti-Centre flavour. The NDA government is also seen to be pulling the strings of the AIADMK government since Jayalalithaa’s death.
Kovai Sathyan, a leader close to Deputy CM O Panneerselvam, however, said the DMK would not reach the magic mark. “We will complete five years. Do not even assume it is going to be a landslide for the DMK,” he said.