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CHENNAI: RK Nagar By-Election Result 2017: Losing the high-profile RK Nagar assembly constituency, is being viewed as a setback for the E Palaniswami-led AIADMK and will send a message that him and his deputy O Panneerselvam might not be in complete control after the split from the Sasikala-Dhinakaran camp. The AIADMK have fielded senior leader E Madhusudanan, who has held the seat before. A loss at RK Nagar would also be a jolt for the DMK, whose working president MK Stalin had campaigned aggressively ahead of polling day.

The result of the by-election for Chennai’s RK Nagar assembly constituency, which fell vacant after the death of former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa last December, were declared today. Independent candidate TTV Dhinakaran, who was sidelined from the AIADMK by the EPS and OPS faction, won the prestigious and much-sought-after RK Nagar assembly seat. TTV Dhinakaran was evicted from the AIADMK along with VK Sasikala following a deal between AIADMK’s factions led by E Palaniswami (EPS) and former Chief Minister O Panneerselvam (OPS), as they merged in August. Mr Dhinakaran and Ms Sasikala have challenged that decision and claim to lead the real AIADMK, though their support within the party is dwindling. Even the Election Commission awarded the AIADMK’s ‘two-leaves’ party symbol to EPS and OPS, calling them the real AIADMK, but the Sasikala-Dhinakaran camp have stood their ground. Claiming victory after the initial rounds of counting, Mr Dhinakaran, who took a virtually unassailable lead of over 45,000 votes, said: “We are the real AIADMK. People of RK Nagar have voted Amma’s successor.” He went on to say that his projected win in the RK Nagar bypoll was “(the) best gift to (party founder) MGR and Amma (Jayalalithaa).” Losing the high-profile RK Nagar assembly constituency, would be considered a setback for the E Palaniswami-led AIADMK and will send a message that him and his deputy O Panneerselvam might not be in complete control after the split from the Sasikala-Dhinakaran camp.

The AIADMK have fielded senior leader E Madhusudanan, who has held the seat before. A loss at RK Nagar would also be a jolt for the DMK, whose working president MK Stalin had campaigned aggressively ahead of polling day. The DMK, which also had support from the Left parties and MDMK, is trailing at third place. MK Stalin chose RK Nagar resident and lawyer by profession Marudhu Ganesh as the DMK’s candidate. Voting for the high-profile RK Nagar constituency was held on December 21, and saw a record 77 per cent turnout in the by-election.

‘Palaniswami Government Will Fall In 3 Months’, Says TTV Dhinakaran,The election was crucial for the AIADMK, which has inherited the legacy of Ms Jayalalithaa, its charismatic leader for several decades.

TTV Dinakaran said that, I have already said the ‘Two Leaves’ will be a success symbol only if it was with Puratchi Thalaivar (party founder MG Ramachandran) and Amma (Jayalalithaa). Will the people vote if it is handed over to MN Nambiar and PS Veerappa?” he added amid chuckles from his supporters. Nambiar and Veerappa were famous yesteryear villains – the former had been being cast against MGR in many of the matinee idol’s films.

The 54-year-old leader — who was arrested for allegedly bribing Election Commission officials to get the two-leaves symbol — is out on bail. His arrest is seen as an effort by the BJP-led Central government to give a boost to the AIADMK. The BJP has a marginal presence in Tamil Nadu and has been trying to expand its footprint. A tie-up with the AIADMK is seen as an option for the party.

 For the AIADMK, which inherited the legacy of Ms Jayalalithaa and the party symbol, the election was crucial. Mr Dhinakaran had been at loggerheads with Mr Palaniswami. Legislators loyal to him had written to the Governor demanding that the Chief Minister step down, and later asked that a trust vote be held in the assembly.

After Ms Jayalalithaa’s death, Ms Sasikala had taken charge of the party. But her chief ministerial ambitions put her on a collision course with O Pannerselvam. OPS, as he is fondly known, had been a regular stand-in for Jayalalithaa and had taken over her job before she died.

The party had split over the issue and the two factions merged in August only after Mr Palaniswami, who was leading one faction, agreed to Mr Panneerselvam’s demand and evicted Ms Sasikala and Mr Dhinakaran. The two challenged the decision and claim to lead the real AIADMK, though their support in the party is dwindling.

Earlier this month, Mr Dhinakaran had lost his claim the AIADMK’s two-leaves election symbol after the Election Commission recognised the merged AIADMK as the “real” party. The sidelined AIADMK leader contested with a pressure cooker as his election symbol.

 

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