The spectacular victory of TTV Dinakaran, the supremo of the rebel faction of the AIADMK party at the R.K Nagar by-election in Tamil Nadu is an eye opener in many sense.
The seat was a pocket-brow of AIADMK General Secretary late J Jayalalitha and was vacant since her demise on December 5, 2016.
This election in this prestigious constituency has been keenly watched as there were many battles within the obvious electoral battle.
One was between popular AIDMK government that is currently ruling the state and the opposition DMK that is surging with popular support.
Another was between the discarded AIDMK faction that emerged in the wake of the Jayalalitha’s death and has been trying to control the AIADMK party and the current ruling faction that is opposed to them.
The by-election in this constituency was also being watched because it’s here the alleged distribution of money to buy the voters was reported and it led to cancellation of the poll earlier.
The verdict of the re-poll questions the credibility of the Election Commission that made no efforts to create a level playing field and allowed the malpractices to take place under its nose. The verdict also offers some lessons on the actual functioning of the democracy in India.
The narrative begins with V. Sashikala Natrajan and his nephew TTV Dinakaran, who were earlier calling the shots from behind the scene when Jayalalitha was alive and later came on forefront to control the AIADMK party after her death.
At that time the AIADMK government was led by O Panerselvan (OPS) when Jayalalitha was sick in hospital. But soon after her demise, V Sashikala, her close friend took control of the party and got elected as its General Secretary. She removed OPS from the CM post and wanted to become the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu.
However, at that very moment, the Supreme Court judgement came and that upheld Sashikala’s conviction in the disproportionate asset case and sent her to jail.
This upset, Shashikala and in a damage control exercise, she handpicked her loyalist Edappadi K. Palaniswami (EPS) and made him the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu. She also appointed her nephew TTV Dinakaram as the deputy general secretary of the AIADMK party.
This resulted in a revolt by dismissed Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam (OPS) who broke ranks from the party and started canvasing against the non-political actors like Sashikala and TTV controlling the AIADMK party.
However, in spite having the backing of the popular sentiments OPS could not muster much support to his favour. Majority of the MLAs were with Edappadi K. Palaniswami (EPS) and were controlled by TTV Dinakaran.
When TTV Dinakaran started calling shots and dictating terms to EPS, it resulted in a rift rift emerged between the Chief Minister and the party’s deputy general secretary.
This resulted in back channel negotiations Chief between OPS and EPS and the two decided to bury their hatchet and agreed to share power with OPS being the deputy Chief Minister. The Chief Minister also agreed to OPS demand to side line, Shashikala Natrajan and his nephew TTV Dinakran from the AIADMK party, thus playing the role of a silent killer.
The new fond rapprochement between the EPS & OPS led to another split in the AIDMK party and TTV Dinakaran pull out his MLAs supporting the government. This reduced the incumbent government falling short of working majority.
The situation has now emerged that neighter the ‘OPS’ & EPS combine nor the Dinakaran faction has a majority even though the deputy general secretary holds the trump card in his hand and can save the government.
The result of the RK Nagar by-election meanwhile has given a new twist to the AIADMK tale. The victory of TTV Dinakran has made the on-going tussle within the AIADMK party more intense.
At the moment which faction is in control of the AIADMK is quite nebulous. Dinakaran, seems emboldened and after the victory, he was heard saying ‘where will the OPS & EPS go? Either to the sea, or to me!’
Dinakran is giving the impression that he is the one who controls the AIADMK party at the same time both OPS & EPS are also giving the same impression.
In spite of all the uncertainties, what is certain is that after the victory, Dinakran is not going the support the EPS & OPS government. It’s also certain that even if he makes herculean efforts to buy the MLAs support, it is impossible that he can turn the tables around in his favour.
In such case only a floor test that can prove the majority of the government. The opposition parties are clamouring for the floor test but the Governor is shying away from the head count. However, sooner or later its bound to happen.
Anyone watching the events unfolding in Tamil Nadu can tell how TTV Dinkarn has won the RK Nagar by-election.
Earlier the election commission had cancelled the poll due to reports that he was freely distributing money to lure the voters.
The situation on the ground never changed since then to now even though there was considerable gap between the cancellation of the poll and the re-election.
All along the malpractice was going on in this constituency, under the very nose of the election commission, whose decision to hold poll have put it in a tight spot.
The RK Nagar poll verdict was known even before the ballot count. This was because majority of the electorates were bought by one man who have been calling the shots all along.
The way the election commission tolerated all this and held the election in this constituency suggests that all is not well with the custodian of Indian democracy.
The result points that Indian democracy has been made a laughing stock because the verdict suggests that election can be won in India even against the popular sentiments. Even though it sounds bizarre but that’s the harsh reality of Indian democracy.
[Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at email@example.com.]