TN faces ‘mini general elections'

AMMK chief T T V Dhinakaran speaks to the media on Madras High Court's verdict disqualifying 18 rebel MLAs of the ruling AIADMK, in Chennai on October. PTI

Tamil Nadu could face a "mini general elections" very soon with 20 Assembly constituencies set to go to by-polls — an election that has the potential to usher in a new chief minister, if not a new government.

Elections to the 20 seats are now imminent with the 18 disqualified MLAs deciding to face the people instead of battling it out in the court as to whether Speaker P Dhanapal’s decision to debar them was constitutionally right.

Besides the 18 seats that became vacant last week with the Madras High Court upholding the disqualification of the MLAs, two constituencies, Tiruvarur and Tiruparankundram, have been vacant owing to the deaths of M Karunanidhi and A K Bose, respectively.

There is no word from the Election Commission on when the by-polls will be held, although there is speculation that it will either be in January or February.

The 20 seats are spread across the state, with more than half a dozen of them falling in southern Tamil Nadu, a traditional stronghold of the AIADMK. The by-elections, as and when they are held, is expected to be a keen contest among the ruling AIADMK, the rebel faction led by T T V Dhinakaran and the Opposition DMK.

The by-elections will put to test DMK president M K Stalin's organisational skills and popularity as this will be the first time the party goes to polls without its patriarch M Karunanidhi.

Another challenge for the DMK is to rejuvenate its cadre in the 20 constituencies — majority of them are traditional AIADMK strongholds — and convince the people to vote for the party.

The DMK is hoping that the split in AIADMK votes would help it since the margin between the two parties in the 2016 elections in most constituencies was more than 10,000 votes.

With little clarity on total number of MLAs supporting the ruling AIADMK — officially, it is 116, including the Speaker, but at least three MLAs are already with Dhinakaran — the rebel camp will try to win as many seats as they can in this election.

Though the by-polls are very crucial, it is unlikely that the AIADMK government will fall after the results are out, although there is every possibility that the chief minister will change. Even if the DMK sweeps the election with 20 seats, it will still be short of one seat to form the government.

"Everything depends on when the elections are held, and timing of the polls also plays a crucial role. And in any case, I don't see any imminent threat to this government even after the elections because I feel that between the AIADMK and TTV, there will at least be a difference of four to five seats," political analyst Sumanth C Raman told DH.

"There is a possibility of the TTV camp forcing the change of chief minister, but it is too early to speculate anything," he said.

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TN faces ‘mini general elections'

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