The announcement of deposed AIADMK leader and former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu O. Paneerselvam (OPS) that his faction would field a candidate for the Erode East bypoll have caused apprehension in the AIADMK camp.
While the AIADMK interim general secretary and former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, Edappadi K. Palaniswami (EPS) has announced that the party is taking the Erode East by-elections as a challenge, the announcement of OPS has come as a major shock.
OPS and his close associates were expelled from the AIADMK in July 2022 and this has led to several groups, including the powerful Thevar community of South Tamil Nadu shying away from the AIADMK. The earlier expulsion of V.K. Sasikala and her nephew TTV Dhinakaran — again Thevars — have increased the ire of the community against the AIADMK.
Even though Erode East seat falls under the Kongu belt dominated by the EPS faction of the AIADMK, things will not be easy for EPS and the party as the seat is now held by the DMK-led Secular Progressive Alliance.
The passing away of the sitting Congress legislator, E. Thirumahan Everaa on January 4 has led to the by-elections for the seat. Father of the deceased legislator, EVKS Elangovan, a former Union minister and grandson of E.V. Ramaswamy Periyar of Thanthai Periyar, is the Congress candidate from the seat. The sympathy factor added to the 8,924 vote lead in the 2021 Assembly polls and the Periyar factor gave a huge advantage to EVKS Elangovan who is also a former TNCC president and a prominent figure in Tamil politics.
Coupled with the AIADMK on a weak wicket and the sympathy and other factors for EVKS Elangovan, the DMK is on an all-out campaign for its alliance partner for the seat.
Added to this is the announcement of the OPS faction that they would contest the polls and every single vote that the candidate put up by OPS gets would be from the kitty of AIADMK and this has worried the party to no end.
The back-to-back statements of leaders like D. Jayakumar and CVe Shanmugham against OPS are seen as a major factor that led to the decision of the OPS faction to contest the polls. While he may not be able to do much to win the elections, there would be a loss of votes for the party candidate if OPS fields a candidate in the polls.
EPS has already taken up the challenge to put up a candidate in the Erode East by-election and the political move of OPS is being keenly watched in Tamil Nadu.
Dr. R. Mukundaraj, retired professor of Political Science from Erode while speaking to IANS said, “EPS and AIADMK are in a sticky wicket after the OPS announced his faction’s interest in contesting the polls and the hurdles that are to be overcome by the AIADMK are many, including the 8,924 vote margin of E. Thirumahan Everaa of the 2021 Assembly polls. It has to be seen as to how things turn out during the election day and we have to wait and watch.”