CHENNAI : The State is expected to witness by-elections to two Assembly constituencies in a few months, which would be the first electoral venture for the DMK sans M Karunanidhi and so, a litmus test for M K Stalin, the heir-apparent, to prove his mettle and measure up to the soaring expectations in the rank-and-file of the party. The Tiruvarur and Tirupparankundram constituencies are now vacant following the death of Karunanidhi and AIADMK MLA A K Bose.
As per Constitution, by-elections must be conducted within six months by the Election Commission which is likely to club the by-elections with the Assembly polls expected in four States.Though the loss of an AIADMK MLA does not pose an immediate threat to the ruling party, the by-elections will throw up a challenge to Stalin in filling the leadership void left by his multi-faceted father, nearly five-decade-long party chief and five-time CM Karunanidhi.“As hinted by our ‘thalaivar’ (Karunanidhi), Stalin will take over the reins of the party without any hindrance. The differences between Stalin and his brother (M K Alagiri) have been settled down amicably,” said a senior party member expressing confidence that the party would put up a united face during the by-elections.
The Tirupparankundram constituency is located in Madurai district, where Stalin’s elder brother Alagiri has a considerable support base. Alagiri was instrumental in the DMK’s electoral victory in the neighbouring Thirumangalam constituency in 2009. The election became so notoriously well-known across the country that Alagiri’s ‘Thirumangalam formula’ became a catchword with heavy connotations of booth-level micro-management and heavy voter bribing.
When the succession battle between Alagiri and Stalin reached its peak in January 2014, Alagiri was suspended by Karunanidhi on the charges of anti-party activities. Despite repeated attempts, he was not reinstated.For the first time after 1957, the DMK will be taking part in the two by-elections without the electric and energetic stewardship of Karunanidhi. Another factor that makes it important for Stalin to prove his calibre is that Tiruvarur is his father’s constituency and also the leader’s home turf.
“Stalin’s acceptance among the cadre and public completely depends on retaining the Tiruvarur constituency and winning the Tirupparankundram. We will wait and watch,” opined a senior DMK functionary.DMK insiders also said political change in the State hinged on the outcome of the High Court’s verdict in the 18 MLA’s disqualification case. After the split verdict given by the HC.
“If the HC upheld the Speaker’s decision, the 18 MLA seats will go vacant, thereby forcing the Election Commission to conduct by-elections to the 18 constituencies. In case the High Court sets aside the Speaker’s decision, the ruling government will have to prove its majority since the total number of MLAs, who support the AIADMK government, may come down to 116,” pointed out political observers.