The bypolls to the Nanguneri and Vikravandi Assembly constituencies, scheduled for October 21, is being seen as a dry run for the Tamil Nadu local body elections that have been put off for one reason or the other for more than two years. The battle is between the ruling AIADMK and the main opposition DMK, with smaller parties like Kamal Haasan’s MNM and T T V Dhinakaran’s AMMK staying away. In any case, the MNM has no presence in these areas and the AMMK is struggling, with many of its leaders joining the parent AIADMK. Nanguneri was held by the Congress while the DMK represented Vikravandi.
The stage that was set during the Lok Sabha elections, in which the DMK alliance won 37 of the 38 seats, was not dismantled as Vellore went to polls in August. Though traditionally a DMK bastion, Vellore had almost slipped out of its grasp, after the AIADMK managed to reduce the victory margin to a mere 8,000 votes. The strong performance in Vellore has apparently given the AIADMK the impetus to strengthen its base at the grass-roots level which is reflected in its choice of candidates for the two seats. Rewarding grass-roots level workers with tickets could be a message to the rank and file elsewhere to keep faith and continue doing the good work. It would also ignite hopes of foot soldiers for party nominations for the local body elections and the next Assembly elections. The DMK, meanwhile, has decided to let the Congress fight the Nanguneri constituency and has chosen its Villupuram district treasurer as the party’s nominee for Vikravandi.
Earlier this year, the AIADMK was routed in the Lok Sabha polls but did well to pick up nine Assembly seats in the by-elections, strengthening the position of Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami. The party would like to keep up the momentum in the upcoming bypolls. The stakes are high for both sides in the by-elections. As for the DMK, it cannot afford to lose as a bad outcome would expose the fissures within its ranks.