The Election Commission on Friday announced that election to the Dr Radhakrishnan Nagar Assembly seat will be held on December 21. Counting of votes will be held on December 24, and the election process will be completed before the 26th, it added. The dates were announced days after the Madras High Court directed the poll body to schedule election before December 31. The seat fell vacant after the death of former Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa in December 2016.
The date of Gazette notification for the bye-election is on November 27, the last date for filing of nominations is on December 4 and scrutiny on December 5. The last date for withdrawal of nominations is on December 7, the EC said in its notification. In its notification, the EC announced that it would use EVMs and VVPAT machines in all polling stations.
Postponement of bypolls
The election to RK Nagar were originally scheduled on April 12 this year. In the run-up to the polls, however, allegations of ‘payoffs to voters’ forced the EC to cancel them. The poll body’s decision came after the Income Tax Department’s alleged the AIADMK faction led by sidelined leader and former party interim general secretary Sasikala Natarajan had bribed voters with nearly Rs 90 crore to support her nephew and candidate TTV Dinakaran. The IT had made the allegations after raiding at least 35 properties of the Tamil Nadu Health Minister C Vijayabaskar.
The poll body invoked its special powers under Article 324 of the Constitution to cancel the election.
AIADMK symbol row
The poll schedule comes a day after the EC allotted the AIADMK’s “two leaves” symbol to the unified faction of the party, led by Tamil Nadu Chief Minister E K Palaniswami (EPS) and Deputy CM O Panneerselvam (OPS). The symbol was being disputed by the faction of the party led by Sasikala and Dinakaran.
With the EC’s order, the EPS-OPS camp can now contest the election using the “two leaves” symbol.
However, after the order was passed, Dinakaran said the poll panel “cannot act impartially”, and that he would challenge the order in the Supreme Court.
Who is contesting the polls?
Dinakaran announced in October that he would contest the polls, representing the faction led by him and Sasikala. This was confirmed after the poll dates were announced.
Ahead of the original polling date for the bye-election, O Panneerselvam had announced E Madusudanan as the candidate for the faction headed by him. Following OPS’ merger with Palaniswami, the unified front has announced its decision to retain Madusudanan as its candidate.
The DMK, meanwhile, had announced that it would field N Maruthuganesh for the polls.
Jayalalithaa’s niece, Deepa Jayakumar, who launched her own party ‘MGR Amma Deepa Peravai’ may also contest the election.
Tamil actor Vishal will also contest the election as an Independent. Vishal, the President of Tamil Film Producers Council, announced his decision and said, “I always wanted to do something for people, and was planning this for long.”
Why is the significance of the RK Nagar bypoll
Following the death of the Jayalalithaa, multiple factions of the party emerged, staking claim to her legacy. The polls are a test for the recently unified ruling AIADMK faction, as the seat has been with the party since 2011.
Meanwhile, the bypoll will also be a test for Dinakaran, who is trying to retain hold of members of the party loyal to Sasikala. Following the EC’s announcement on Friday, Dinakaran said, “I will win the RK Nagar bye-election and take back the ‘two leaves’ symbol,” reported ANI. He was addressing party workers in Tiruppur.
The DMK, which may garner anti-incumbency votes following the tussle of power within the AIADMK, is looking to regain the seat.
(With inputs from agencies)