CHENNAI: The outcome of the by-election to the prestigious RK Nagar Assembly constituency, represented twice by late chief minister J Jayalalithaa, would force the ruling AIADMK led by Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami and Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam to wear their thinking caps. This was the first election held three months after the merger of the two factions of the AIADMK and a month after retrieving their Two Leaves symbol while chucking V K Sasikala and T T V Dhinakaran out of their leadership positions. Ironically, the defeat happened on the 30th death anniversary of party founder M G Ramachandran and during his birth centenary year.
“The immediate impact of this result will be on the unity of the party as well as the stability of the present government. Also, the verdict in the case relating to the disqualification of 18 AIADMK MLAs could be a flashpoint. After this result, the party will gravitate towards a mass leader. But the speed of that gravitation will depend upon the developments in the coming days,” said political analyst Tharasu Shyam.
A bit of the gravitational pull was already evident with Vellore member of Parliament B Senguttuvan, who had shifted his loyalty to the ruling party just a month ago, going back to the Dhinakaran camp after meeting him at his residence even as the counting of votes was on. Supporters of Dhinakaran claimed that several ruling partymen were in touch with him and a few key functionaries had already greeted him over phone.
Dhinakaran said people had given him the mandate to dislodge the anti-people government, which would not last for two or three months. His sleeper cells would surface when the government seeks confidence vote in the Assembly, he added. However, Minister for Cooperation Sellur K Raju did not see this as a setback to the AIADMK. He told Express, “People have actually rejected DMK. If they were really angry with the ruling party, they ought to have voted for DMK. On the contrary, the AIADMK got a majority of votes.”
Responding to another question, he said, “The message RK Nagar voters conveyed was of forging unity in AIADMK,” indicating that Dhinakaran should be roped into the ruling camp.However, one of the veteran AIADMK leaders told Express that there was no possibility of rapprochement with Dhinakaran. He said Dhinakaran would stay in the limelight only as long this government lasted. After that, he would lose his importance.
A longtime loyalist of the AIADMK told Express that the State government had a problem of perception over its handling the dengue outbreak, Chennai floods and cyclone Ockhi. Besides, loose cannons speaking out of turn and graft charges dented the image a bit.