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Vikravandi bypoll: Acid test for DMK in the backdrop of hooch tragedy

The DMK will now have to 'run the extra mile' to register a victory in the assembly segment against PMK’s Anbumani, who is the candidate of the NDA.
Last Updated : 24 June 2024, 16:00 IST

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Chennai: DMK dispensation’s failure in preventing the hooch tragedy in Kallakurichi, which has so far claimed 57 lives, has not just taken the sheen of the party’s landslide win in the Lok Sabha elections but has also presented it with a slew of fresh political challenges, especially winning the July 10 byelections to Vikravandi assembly constituency.

It was projected as an easy win for the ruling DMK when the bypolls were announced given that the party-led Secular Progressive Alliance (SPA) had swept the Lok Sabha polls by winning all 39 seats.

However, the tragic incident in Kallakurichi, 90 km from Vikravandi, could upset the calculations. The DMK will now have to 'run the extra mile' to register a victory in the assembly segment against PMK’s Anbumani, who is the candidate of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), with the AIADMK boycotting the elections. 

Vikravandi is a constituency in Villupuram district in northern Tamil Nadu dominated by Vanniyars, a significant chunk of whom form the core vote base of the PMK. The July 10 contest is likely to narrow down to ‘Anniyur’ Siva of the DMK and Anbumani (PMK) with Dr Abhinaya of Naam Tamizhar Katchi (NTK) on the sidelines. 

 The ruling DMK is entering the electoral contest with a slew of accusations against two of its party MLAs who are alleged to have links with brewing, and sale of illicit liquor in Kallakurichi district and a 'massive failure' on part of the district administration in keeping a check on such activities. 

PMK, which is an active proponent of prohibition in Tamil Nadu, has upped its ante on the issue by accusing the DMK of 'killing people' by allowing 'sale' of spurious liquor in the state, where legal liquor flows like water. The party and its alliance partner, BJP, have already made it clear that illicit liquor and the “government encouraging people to drink” through state-owned TASMAC liquor shops will be the major issues in the bypoll.  

“The Kallakurichi incident was a bolt from the blue when we were gloating over the Lok Sabha poll victory and exerting pressure on the BJP over the NEET exam. This one incident has put us on the defensive on a host of issues. Though we are likely to win the bypoll, we have a long way to go in fighting the perception battle,” a senior DMK leader told Deccan Herald.

 The byelection comes at a time the BJP-PMK alliance is projecting itself as an alternative to the Dravidian majors in the state, especially after they garnered 19 per cent of votes in the Lok Sabha polls. The DMK, which will be at pains to explain the Kallakurichi incident, will have to convince the voters of the need to vote for the party. 

With the assembly elections less than two years away, the DMK, against whom the anti-incumbency was visible even during the Lok Sabha elections, odds are stacked against it, political observers said. 

Prof Ramu Manivannan, who taught history at the University of Madras, told DH that the DMK has to fight a “hard battle” and push its cadre to work on the ground to pull out a victory in a largely bipolar contest. 

“Though PMK has an advantage in Vikravandi given it is a Vanniyar belt, overall, the DMK still enjoys the edge in the constituency despite there is a disaffection and criticism of the government. The DMK will have to run the extra mile by spending more financial resources and deploying more human resources,” Prof. Manivannan added. 

 “Another advantage for the DMK is I don’t believe the AIADMK votes will transfer to the PMK, which is a strong contender in the seat. AIADMK voters might go silent,” he said.

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Published 24 June 2024, 16:00 IST

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