As counting of votes for Lok Sabha elections began this (Thursday) morning, in Tamil Nadu votes cast in 22 assembly constituencies hold the key to the survival of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) government led by Edappadi K Palaniswami.
The vacancies to the assembly were caused after Speaker P Dhanapal disqualified 18 legislators (MLAs) for writing a letter to the Tamil Nadu governor withdrawing support to the Palaniswami government. The MLAS wrote the letter after Palaniswami refused to make way for T T V Dinakaran, nephew of the late J Jayalalithaa’s aide Sasikala, to become the chief minister.
Palaniswami was sworn in as Chief Minister on 17 February 2017 after O Panneerselvam, currently Deputy Chief Minister, was asked to step down by Sasikala and her supporters just before the Supreme Court convicted her in a case of amassing wealth disproportionate to her known sources of income.
Besides the disqualification of 18 MLAs, four other vacancies were caused by the death of MLAs, including former chief minister and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) chief M Karunanidhi.
According to the information available on Tamil Nadu assembly website, AIADMK has 113 members plus the Speaker, who can vote in case of a deadlock, DMK 88, Congress eight, Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) one and an independent one. The assembly has also a member nominated from the Anglo Indian community.
The AIADMK will look to win at least five seats to reach the majority mark of 118 of the total 235 seats. The DMK will have to win at least in 21 constituencies to make the mark along with its alliance partners Congress and IUML.
The results will also be an indicator of how two fledgling parties — Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam (AMMK) and Makkal Needhi Maiam (MNM) — have progressed in winning the confidence of the electorate. AMMK was launched by T T V Dinakaran after he was expelled from the AIADMK. Tamil actor Kamal Haasan floated MNM.
Both the new parties have the potential to cut votes both sides to dent AIADMK and DMK chances. The results will be significant not just for who will rule the state until 2021, when elections are due but also decide the future of almost all parties following the death of two political giants — Jayalalithaa and Karunanidhi — since 2016.
Karunanidhi’s son and DMK president M K Stalin sees himself as the potential chief minister, while Palaniswami is trying to outsmart him with his political manoeuvres to hold on. Fortunes of other parties like Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party also hinge on the outcome.