The thumping margin of over 40,000 votes with which T T V Dinakaran won the prestigious RK Nagar seat once held by his mentor J Jayalalithaa marks his emergence out of the shadow of aunt V K Sasikala, as a leader in his own right. It is quite a turnaround for the rebel AIADMK leader who, eight months ago in April, when the bypolls were to be first held in the seat, was fighting charges of having had a hand in the death of Jayalalithaa and of links with Sasikala’s “wrongdoings”.
While the DMK, that has been stunned by the result, continues to allege use of money to “bribe” voters, the answer is hardly that simple. Incidentally, the April bypoll was cancelled on voter bribery charge. Senior political analyst Ramu Manivannan, who teaches at the University of Madras, said the bypoll was a test of Dinakaran’s leadership ability, and he had passed it. The rebel AIADMK leader retained a clear lead in almost all the 18 rounds of counting over the official AIADMK candidate, E Madhusudhanan, on Sunday.
“In this battle, there was not a single candidate matching his persona. When the BJP dismantled the AIADMK, when they targeted its seniormost leaders selectively and sent Dinakaran to Tihar, and he returned with more power, people were watching,” he said.
The BJP’s actions in Tamil Nadu were seen as a campaign against Dinakaran, which conversely helped him play the victim and boosted his popularity over a short span. The DMK, in contrast, was seen as being soft on the Centre, despite its 89 MLAs.
Nanjil Sampath, a close aide of Dinakaran, said their team had a clear directive: to take on the BJP throughout the campaign. “We did not even touch the DMK, they were not a matter of topic for us. Our target was the BJP. The result has proved that it is Dinakaran, not Stalin, who can take on the BJP at the Centre like Amma did,” Sampath said.
A senior official said Dinakaran had also played his cards well since his release from Tihar prison — he was held on charges of trying to bribe Election Commission officials — through judicious statements, long, live and open press interactions, and at least two major public rallies, in Melur and Trichy.
One resident of Jeeva Nagar who voted for Dinakaran said his evolution didn’t go unnoticed in R K Nagar. When he came for the first campaign, he was just the nephew of Jayalalithaa’s alleged killer, the voter said. “And OPS (Panneerselvam) was a messiah for us at that time. But in the last six months, the credibility of OPS is gone as he joined EPS (CM Palaniswami) camp, who never did anything for the people. Meanwhile, we have been watching Dinakaran since April. We saw him at our doorstep during his April campaign. He worked hard this time too, campaigned till 5 pm on the last campaign day while Madhusudhanan stopped at noon itself. He has courage. We accept him, as long as Sasikala does not return.”