Buying time or ceding space to BJP? All you need to know about AIADMK’s by-poll boycott

The move to boycott the by-poll comes just weeks after the AIADMK posted its worst-ever electoral performance in the Lok Sabha in recent times which saw the party being snatched of the runner-up tag in 12 constituencies by the BJP-led NDA.
Last Updated : 17 June 2024, 14:48 IST

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Chennai: AIADMK’s decision to boycott the July 10 Vikravandi assembly constituency by-polls will not just be demoralizing for its cadres who are already crestfallen due to the party’s successive electoral defeats since 2016, but also is likely to further cede the opposition space to the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA).

Contesting the by-polls against the ruling DMK alliance could have helped the AIADMK reassert the often repeated statements of the two Dravidian majors that the electoral contest in Tamil Nadu will continue to remain bipolar and no Third Front will be successful in the state.

The move to boycott the by-poll comes just weeks after the AIADMK posted its worst-ever electoral performance in the Lok Sabha in recent times which saw the party being snatched of the runner-up tag in 12 constituencies by the NDA. It also coincides with the campaign led by expelled AIADMK leaders to unify all factions of the party to get battle-ready for the assembly polls.

The contest now is primarily between DMK candidate Anniyur Siva and NDA constituent Paatali Makkal Katchi (PMK’s) Anbumani in the Vanniyar heartland of northern Tamil Nadu, with Abhinaya Ponnivalavan of Tamil nationalist outfit Naam Tamizhar Katchi (NTK) on the sidelines.

AIADMK general secretary Edappadi K Palaniswami justified the decision to boycott the by-polls saying he had no hope that the elections would be held in a “free and fair” manner.

Though this is not the first time that a principal opposition party has boycotted by-elections in the state – both DMK and AIADMK have done it in the past. But what makes the decision interesting is that it was largely a bipolar fight then and there was no third front waiting in the wings like the BJP alliance in the current scenario.

Political analysts said the AIADMK’s decision to boycott the by-election – similar to what the party did in 2009 under their late supremo J Jayalalithaa – doesn’t augur well for the party at a time the BJP is making an aggressive push to make inroads into the Dravidian land.

Avoiding yet another defeat at the hands of the DMK might have pushed the Edappadi K Palaniswami-led party towards the boycott, but the decision could also have a future political calculation. AIADMK could have also taken the decision to stay away from the by-polls hoping that the PMK, which wields considerable influence among Vanniyars, could return the favour by jumping ship to the party-led alliance for the 2026 assembly polls.

Senior journalist Maalan Narayanan told DH that Palaniswami was merely “buying time” by boycotting the by-polls as he doesn’t want the AIADMK’s “weakening party structure” before the 2026 assembly polls.

"The party leadership might have learnt from the recent Lok Sabha polls that it is no longer stronger like the days of Jayalalithaa. In the eventuality of a loss, Palaniswami’s leadership would have come under scrutiny especially with renewed calls for unification of the AIADMK with the most vociferous voice being that of V K Sasikala", Narayanan added. 

"Palaniswami is trying to keep his flock together and he is playing the game very carefully because the challenges for his party are quite high. Anybody in his position would have done the same", the senior journalist said.

By-polls in Tamil Nadu have a chequered history with the ruling dispensations splurging crores of rupees and nominating almost the entire cabinet for campaign in these constituencies. In 2017, the by-polls to R K Nagar were rescinded due to rampant use of money to buy votes in the constituency that fell vacant after J Jayalalithaa’s death.  

Published 17 June 2024, 14:48 IST

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