In a major blow to the opposition, the ruling AIADMK has won both the by-elections to the Tamil Nadu Assembly by a convincing margin, wresting Vikhravandi in Villupuram district from the DMK and Nanguneri in southern Tirunelveli district from the Congress.
With these victories, the AIADMK has taken its tally in the 234-member Tamil Nadu Assembly to 124, seven more than the halfway mark.
It has dealt a mortal blow to Leader of the Opposition M K Stalin who raised the stakes by saying the by-elections would be a referendum on the Edappadi Government’s rule and a dress-rehearsal for the next Assembly elections due in May 2021.
In VIkhravandi, AIADMK’s Muthtamizh Selvan trounced his nearest DMK rival N Pugazhendhi by 44,782 votes, The AIADMK polled 1,13,428 votes while the DMK candidate got 68,648.
The AIADMK candidate Rettiyarpatti Narayanan won Nanguneri by a narrower margin wrested it from Congress candidate and businessman Rubi Manoharan. Narayanan polled 67,719 while Manoharan got 47,050.
While Vikhravandi by-election was caused by the death of sitting DMK member Radharamani, Nanguneri fell vacant after successful Congress candidate and billionaire businessman Vasanth Kumar resigned upon his election to the Lok Sabha from Kanyakumari last April.
The Vikhravandi constituency, a Vanniar belt, saw an 84 per cent turnout, showing a Vanniar surge in favour of the ruling AIADMK after Pattali Makkal Katchi founder S Ramadoss charged that DMK mouthpiece Murosoli office was built on a panchami land ( land allotted to Dalits by the British) in Chennai(the latest Dhanush film ‘Asuran’ is based on this topic of Panchami land) and Stalin challenged him to prove or quit politics along with his son Anbumani Ramadoss.
The Congress, which always was relatively strong in southern Tirunelveli, lost Nanguneri in keeping with the nationwide trend against it and in favour of the BJP which got transferred to AIADMK, an ally.
The by-elections validated the AIADMK’s claim that its rout in the April Lok Sabha polls was because of the anti-Modi wave in Tamil Nadu. It also pointed out that it won nine out of the 22 Assembly elections held along with the Lok Sabha polls, getting it a simple majority.
The Edappadi Government has come to stay and Stalin has another two years struggle to come to power, if at all, and he is already 66.
The 18 rival pro-Dinakaran legislators were disqualified in September while Panneerselvam and Co were spared by Speaker Dhanapal. They have since merged their faction with EPS. But if the Supreme Court upholds the DMK plea to disqualify O Panneerselvam and 11 other MLAs who voted against the Edappadi Government in February 2017, that may create some impediment in the path of Edappadi government.