Chennai: T .T.V. Dhinakaran, an independent candidate and nephew of the now jailed politician V.K. Sasikala, won by a huge margin of over 40,000 votes in the byelection held for former chief minister, the late J. Jayalalithaa’s Dr. Radhakrishnan Nagar (R.K. Nagar) constituency on Sunday.
Dhinakaran got a total of 89,013 votes, or more than 50% of votes polled in the high-profile seat. While E. Madhusudhanan of the ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) got 48,306 votes, N. Marudhu Ganesh of the opposition Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) lost his deposit, having polled just 24,651 votes. A total of 59 candidates were in the fray.
Ironically, the ruling AIADMK and the sidelined Dhinakaran were battling to retain the party’s legacy on the 30th death anniversary of AIADMK’s founder M.G. Ramachandran.
“The people of R.K. Nagar have reflected the mindset of the entire people of Tamil Nadu. Voters have decided to put an end to this anti-people government. This government will fall in the next three months," said Dhinakaran.
He added that the victory was a blessing for the AIADMK cadre on MGR’s death anniversary.
“R.K. Nagar was represented by Amma (Jayalalithaa). The thumping majority which the voters have given is an indication of who will lead the party," said Dhinakaran.
The ruling AIADMK got back its ‘two leaves’ election symbol in December following the merger of factions led by chief minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami and his deputy O. Panneerselvam, as they sidelined their rival Dhinakaran.
In a shocker, the DMK under working president M.K. Stalin could not retain its deposit.
DMK’s poor performance, despite the infighting in the AIADMK, is seen as a big setback for the party which had the support of Congress, Communist Party of India (CPI), Communist Party of India (Marxist), Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi, and the Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam.
Stating that money played a huge role in the R.K. Nagar election, DMK’s working president Stalin said: “It is a Himalayan defeat for the Election Commission of India (EC) and not the DMK."
He said the EC failed to take action on the widespread money distribution.
The bypoll, which was cancelled in April after complaints of widespread distribution of cash to voters, took place more than a year after the seat fell vacant following the death of Jayalalithaa on 5 December last year.
However, this time too there were complaints of cash distribution by the AIADMK and Dhinakaran’s faction.
According to observers, Dhinakaran’s strong opposition against the central government helped his cause.
“We knew that Dhinakaran had an advantage. But didn’t expect to finish third and lose deposit," a senior DMK leader said on condition of anonymity.
While Naam Tamilar Katchi finished fourth with 3,860 votes, a total of 2,373 people opted for NOTA (None of the Above) option. The Bharatiya Janata Party recorded well below the NOTA tally, with 1,417 votes.
The DMK leader cited above added that Dhinakaran’s victory was a sign of more confusion in the ruling AIADMK and a strong message for the BJP that has been accused of attempting to manoeuvre state politics by controlling the ruling party since Jayalalithaa’s demise.
The bypoll, held on 21 December, witnessed a record 77.5% voter turnout. The constituency has been AIADMK’s bastion since the 1990s.
Earlier in the day, the counting process was stalled after Madhusudhanan’s supporters clashed with Dhinakaran’s backers following the first round of counting. Police and paramilitary forces were brought in to bring the situation under control.
With more than 2,500 security personnel, over 200 surveillance cameras, 75 flying squad teams, 21 static surveillance teams, 20 monitoring teams with video recording devices and around 45 check posts, the R.K. Nagar byelection was the costliest in the country ever.
The massive arrangements cost the Election Commission Rs3 crore, compared to around Rs60 lakh that is typically spent on a bypoll.