Disqualification Of 18 MLAs: Tamil Nadu Could Head For Fresh Assembly Polls Along With Lok Sabha Elections

by MR Subramani - Oct 26, 2018 12:16 PM +05:30 IST
Disqualification Of 18 MLAs:  Tamil Nadu Could Head For Fresh Assembly Polls Along With Lok Sabha ElectionsRajinikanth, T T V Dinakaran and M K Alagiri
  • While the DMK and AIADMK are cautiously weighing their options and watching out for dissident leaders, the BJP and the Congress are in no position to take advantage of the growing disenchantment with the Dravidian parties.

    There is enough space for a new party to emerge in the state.

Some 13 months after the Tamil Nadu assembly Speaker P Dhanapal disqualified 18 MLAs, the Madras High Court has upheld the disqualification with the third judge ruling in favour of All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) government. On Thursday (25 October), Justice M Sathyanarayanan of the Madras High Court, who was appointed by the Supreme Court, has gone with the view of the court’s former chief justice Indira Banerjee in upholding the Speaker’s decision.

According to the Tamil Nadu assembly website, the assembly had 18 vacancies as on 1 January this year. With the deaths of Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) patriarch M Karunanidhi, who represented the Thiruvarur constituency, in August and AIADMK member A K Bose, who was elected from Thiruparankundram, there are 20 vacancies in the assembly now.

Including the Speaker, the AIADMK has 117 MLAS, while the DMK has 88.

What does this judgement mean for Tamil Nadu and in particular for the AIADMK? Where are things headed for in the State? If the Election Commission decides to announce by-elections to the 18 seats from where the MLAs were elected and also for the vacancies caused by deaths, it could be a mini-election with 20 seats at stake. But the million dollar question is will the by-elections be held at all?

Censor board member Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) member, S Ve Shekher, probably has brought into public focus what was being discussed in private. In a tweet hours after the judgement, he said chances are bright for elections to the Tamil Nadu assembly being held with Parliament.

Neither Shekher nor those who talk about the possibility are wrong. Reasons are aplenty for such an eventuality. Let’s look at this from the the AIADMK angle since its cabinet has to recommend the dissolution of the assembly.

Essentially, the by-elections would mean a stern rest for the government led by Edappadi K Palaniswami (EPS). The AIADMK government has not exactly covered itself with glory, though EPS has deftly handled the situation since February 2017 when he was sworn in the Chief Minister. Even in its current strongholds of western districts of Erode, Salem, Tirupur and Coimbatore, the AIADMK is on a shaky ground.

When that is the case, most of these 20 vacancies are in constituencies, where the EPS government isn’t popular. In particular, southern Tamil Nadu is a region where casteist passions run high and insofar as that is concerned, the AIADMK government is surely on the back foot.

The Thevars-dominated southern Tamil Nadu is seen as the stronghold of T T V Dinakaran, the nephew of Sasikala who was Jayalalithaa’s aide, and is now in prison after being convicted for amassing wealth beyond her known sources of income. Already, there are talk of a by-election in Thiruparankundram and Thiruvarur essentially turning into a two-horse race between Dinakaran and M K Alagiri, Karunanidhi’s son who has been expelled from the DMK.

AIADMK’s problems are, first, it doesn’t have a leader who can get it votes. Second, what if the party loses most of the seats? In such a situation, the leadership of EPS and his deputy O Panneerselvam (OPS) will come under pressure and this could see more leaving the party or demanding merger with Dinakaran’s Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam (AMMK). This will only leave Dinakaran stronger than never before.

In addition, even now, EPS is under tremendous pressure from all sides. OPS nurses an ambition of getting back to the saddle that he had to vacate for EPS. That’s one of the reasons why we hear reports of disturbances within the AIADMK.

For the ruling party, there is nothing to show as achievement in the last one and a half years. Maybe, EPS could have flagged off a few programmes but nothing has come home to roost. Even if the AIADMK were to be united, no one is sure how it will fare in the current scenario, where people have developed bitterness and a deep mistrust towards the Dravidian parties.

That brings us to the DMK. By no means is the DMK in a position to wrest advantage from a weakened AIADMK. Had that been the case, Stalin should have been calling the shots from Fort St George by now. Stalin and DMK are clueless and not sure on how to make a headway. The party’s anti-Hindu stance hasn’t helped either, while its hypocrisy has been called out in many an instance, recently.

DMK’s woes are compounded by the seniors in the party being ignored in taking key decisions. The cadre is frustrated and nepotism within the party has made things worse. The other problem is that Alagiri could emerge as a focal point for the disenchanted cadre, though not much of it is seen now. But elections in southern Tamil Nadu, which is basically a stronghold of Alagiri, could bring him back into the reckoning.

Other parties, too, cannot be sure of the outcome of the by-elections what with the BJP and the Congress in no position to win over the people amidst growing disenchantment with the Dravidian parties. There is enough space for a new party in the state and time is ripe for a new force to harvest such a yearning.

Before we dwell on the new force, here are a few pointers on what could unfold in Tamil Nadu. The Election Commission put off the by-elections to Thiruvarur and Thiruparankundram on a request from the state government that it is monsoon time, and floods could hamper electioneering. No party has tried to challenge this postponement of by-elections. The primary reason for this is none of the major parties is sure of winning both these seats.

First, what will EPS or AIADMK do to tide over the current situation? Second, the DMK has reportedly gone about silently preparing for the Lok Sabha elections and Congress figures nowhere in its calculations. The DMK is increasingly feeling that it has dead weight on its shoulders if it aligns with the Congress that has no influence in Tamil Nadu at all. It also means the DMK is keeping its options open for a post-poll alliance which ever way it can.

In such a situation, would the AIADMK or DMK like to see it dissident leaders like Dinakaran or Alagiri walk away with the honours? Nor would they want to see their rivals emerge stronger and weaken them totally. In these circumstances, both would prefer fresh elections to the assembly so that either way they can settle their issues.

On the other hand, earlier there were reports that Tamil actor superstar Rajinikanth will likely advance the launch of his political party to 12 December, his birthday. But last weekend, the movie star said he had no plans to advance the launch of his party, though 90 per cent of the groundwork was over. This means the launch will be around 14 January next year, going by indications from various quarters.

On 23 October, Rajinikanth issued a statement saying that just being in his fans association for 30-40 years doesn’t mean they would be automatically be honoured with a post in his party. At the same time, he has said that it is important to give posts to the general public to draw them to the party, which will be launched soon.

A clear pattern is emerging with Rajinikanth’s plans to launch his party and the Tamil Nadu political situation. Add now the scheduling of Lok Sabha elections next year that will have to be completed before the third week of May when the current term of Parliament expires.

Going by Rajinikanth’s plans for the party’s launch, it is clear that by the time the elections schedule is announced, he would have toured the entire state once. That would be more than enough for him to reap gains for the euphoria that could be created by his party’s launch and tour.

The undercurrent is that EPS could be encouraged to dissolve the assembly and opt for fresh elections. With the government talking of cutting down election expenses and also for other security and strategic reasons, the Election Commission could opt for simultaneous Parliament and assembly elections.

As of now, Dinakaran or MLAs supporting him have spoken of approaching the Supreme Court on appeal. All this point to an interesting political phase emerging in Tamil Nadu. Keep watching.

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