Chennai, Apr 16 : The campaigning for the byelections to 18 Assembly seats, which also goes to the polls along with 39 Lok Sabha seats on April 18, ended on Tuesday evening. This would be the first time, a sort of 'mini' election was being held along with the Parliamentary seats, when polling would be simultaneously to fill 18 of the 22 Assembly seats. This is the first time, bypolls are being held to fill such a large number of vacancies in the electoral history of the State, proving an acid test for the leadership qualities of the ruling AIADMK and the principal Opposition DMK, who were without the presence of two personalities late Chief Ministers J Jayalalitha and DMK Chief M Karunanidhi.
More than the Lok sabha polls, the bypoll to 18 Assembly seats is more crucial for the stability of the government, and the party has to win a good number of seats to ensure a simple majority in the 234-member House. The AIADMK has also got the support of all its allies for the bypolls to all 22 seats to be contested by it. though by-poll is being held only for 18. For the remaining four seats it will be held on May 19. The strength of AIADMK in the Assembly has come down to 114 from 136 (when it won in 2016)--three short of a simple majority--after the disqualification of 18 rebel MLAs owing allegiance to TTV Dhinakaran, who later founded the AMMK.
Three Independents, who won on AIADMK 'Two Leaves' symbol in 2016 Assemblky polls, have also turned against the Government and were supporting Dhinakaran, who was elected as Independent from RK Nagar Assembly seat in the by-election, which was held by Ms Jayalalithaa. Three other MLAs too were said to be moving closer to AMMK. While 18 fell vacant following the disqualification of rebel MLAs, two fell vacant following the death of sitting members (Tiruvarur held by Mr M Karunanidhi and Tiruparankundram held by AIADMK MLA A K Bose) and Hosur fell vacant following the conviction of former Minister P Balakrishna Reddy by a court.
Recently, the Sulur seat also fell vacant due to the death of AIADMK MLA Kanagaraj on March 21, taking the number of vacancies to 22. Byelections would be held for Perambur, Tiruporur, Poonamallee, Ambur, Gudiyatham, Sholinghur, Tiruvaur, Thanjavur, Hosur, Harur, Pappireddipatti, Andipatti, Manamadurai, Nilakottai, Paramakudi, Periyakulam, Sattur, Vilathikulam. For the ruling AIADMK it will be a test of the popularity of the post-Jayalaitha regime headed by Edappadi K Palanisami and Deputy Chief Minister O Pannerselvam.
The party split after the revolt by Panneerselvam against Jaya’s close aide V K Sasikala and her nephew Dhinakaran, who were since been expelled after the warring EPS-OPS factions merged and disqualified rebel legislators, a decision by the Assembly Speaker upheld by the Madras High Court. The reunited factions have recognition as official AIADMK, plus the hugely popular 'Two Leaves' symbol and the flag from the Election Commission. The Opposition DMK, which has a combined strength of 97 members in the House (DMK-88, Congress-8 and IUML-1), has been targetting the government, charging it with sacrificing Tamil Nadu’s interests and was being 'remote-controlled' by the BJP government at the Centre. (UNI)