Erode East Result Shows Yet Again Why The Ruling Party In Tamil Nadu Is Almost Invincible In Bypolls
While bypolls in the state are usually won by the ruling party, what makes this victory of the DMK-led alliance in Erode East disturbingly different is the unprecedented cash distribution to bribe voters using innovative approaches and the Election Commission turning a blind eye to massive misuse of state machinery and open admission by ruling party functionaries of wielding money power to influence voting choice.
Senior Congress leader and former Union Minister EVKS Elangovan has won the Erode East bypoll. He defeated the principal opponent, KS Thennarasu of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) by a whopping margin of around 66000 votes.
The bypoll was necessitated by the death of Elangovan's son Thirumagan Evera.
According to the official results declared by the Election Commission, the number of votes received by the top four candidates are as follows-
EVKS Elangovan (Congress) -110156 (64.58%)
KS Thennarasu (AIADMK) - 43,981 (25.75%)
Menaka Navaneethan (Naam Tamilar Katchi) - 10,804 (6.35%)
S Anand- Desiya Dravida Murpokku Kazhagam (DMDK) - 1177 (0.84%)
Even though its candidate was not in the fray, the ruling Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) pulled out all the stops to ensure the victory of the Elangovan.
Many political observers in the state pointed out the unprecedented scale of cash distribution in the run-up to Erode East bypoll. While they point out that bribing voters with cash is a common phenomenon in state electoral politics, especially on voting day, the stark difference this time around was the multiple rounds of cash distribution and confining voters in halls to secure them from opposition allurement.
Apart from cash, the DMK allegedly distributed meat and pressure cookers to voters.
Some of them said that this is the start of a new 'Erode Model' replacing the infamous 'Thirumangalam Formula'.
Rare Cases Of Ruling Party Losing A Bypoll
The outcome of byelections in Tamil Nadu are usually regarded as a foregone conclusion given the scale of money distribution and misuse of official machinery.
Except on two occasions, a ruling party has never lost an assembly bypoll in Tamil Nadu unless it has been conducted along with Lok Sabha.
In 1999, senior AIADMK Leader R Viswanathan, won the bypoll in the Natham Assembly constituency in September 1999 when the DMK was in power. TTV Dhinakaran, leader of a breakaway faction of the AIADMK, won the RK Nagar byelection in 2017 which earned notoriety for large-scale cash distribution.
The term 'Thirumangalam formula' came to epitomise the invincibility of the ruling party in bypolls.
In 2009, a bypoll was held in Thirumangalam, a suburb of Madurai. A victory was guaranteed for the DMK, but MK Alagiri wanted to demonstrate his strength to impress his father, who was then the chief minister of Tamil Nadu.
Alagiri is said to have mobilised the party machinery to ensure the distribution of money to every household in the constituency. Many political observers alleged that the number of votes in each house was counted, and cash was stuffed, at the rate of Rs 500, in an envelope and delivered to every home.
DMK candidate and Alagiri loyalist Latha Adhiyaman won with a thumping margin of 39,266 votes. The then Chief Minister Karunanidhi quickly claimed the verdict as a vindication of the DMK’s ‘golden rule’.
Both political parties subsequently mainstreamed the ‘Thirumangalam formula’.
Analysing Erode Outcome
Despite the history of one-sided outcomes, the bypoll in Erode East constituency was keenly watched.
Erode region has been traditionally in a subregion of Tamil Nadu that has been favourable to the AIADMK. Also the ruling DMK was facing significant anti-incumbency very early in its tenure due to a series of unpopular measures and lackadaisical governance.
Fearing that an underwhelming performance in the byelection will add further credibility to the widely prevalent perception of ‘poor governance’, the party deployed almost the entire state cabinet and scores of legislators to manage the elections.
The final result however showed that the DMK-led alliance has gained hugely at the cost of the AIADMK-BJP alliance when compared to the 2021 Assembly elections.
In the 2021 Assembly elections, the vote share of the DMK-led alliance was 44.27 per cent and that of the AIADMK-BJP alliance was 38.41 per cent. This time, the DMK-led alliance cornered a massive 64.58 per cent and the AIADMK-BJP got 25.75 per cent.
Therefore, there is a vote swing of 20.31 per cent in favour of the DMK-led alliance.
What has also made it different is because a look at all the three previous elections shows that the margin of victory has never been more than 11000 votes or 8 per cent in vote share terms.
Other Reasons For The 20 Per Cent Swing In Favour Of The DMK-Led Alliance
According to political commentators, there are a number of reasons for the massive swing in favour of the DMK-led alliance. They are as follows-
MNM Votes Shifted To Elangovan
The shift of the votes of Kamal Haasan's Makkal Needhi Maiam (MNM) to Elangovan is an important factor. The MNM had polled 10,005 votes with a vote share of 6.98 per cent in the 2021 elections.
Haasan had campaigned for Elangovan and was also seen with Rahul Gandhi at the Bharat Jodo Yatra.
Consolidation of the votes of the Muslim minority, numbering about 40,000 behind the DMK alliance.
AIADMK Weakened By Dispute Between OPS-EPS; BJP's Dilemma Regarding Contesting Alone
The AIADMK is not as strong as it was during the 2021 Assembly elections because of the dispute between the O Panneerselvam (OPS) and Edappadi Palaniswami (EPS) factions that continued till a few days before the deadline for nomination.
The dispute within the party had resulted in a delay in the announcement of the candidate and hence a late start to the campaign. The BJP too took its time to decide that it would not contest alone.
PMK Votes May Have Gone To The DMK Alliance; DMDK Contesting Alone
The Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) did not take an official stand as to which alliance they would support. Some of their votes might have gone to Elangovan.
The PMK was part of the AIADMK-BJP alliance during the last election.
Similarly, the DMDK which was with the AIADMK earlier, contested the elections alone this time and got 1177 votes.
Loss Of Votes By The NTK
The 800 odd votes lost by the NTK (as compared to 2021) too is believed to have gone to the DMK alliance.
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