Chennai: The slender margin of 8,141 votes by which the DMK wrested the Vellore Lok Sabha seat from the AIADMK in the August 5 election, a constituency that the ruling party had won in the 2014 polls with a convincing margin of 59,393 votes, comes as yet another reminder that the politics of the state, in the post-Jayalalithaa, post-Karunanidhi scenario, is in a transition phase.
But what the DMK candidate D M Kathir Anand's victory over the New Justice Party (NJP) leader and educationist A C Shanmugam, who contested on the AIADMK's 'Two Leaves' symbol, as part of the AIADMK-BJP alliance in the State, has also shown is this fact: the underlying political sentiment that gave the DMK-Congress-led alliance a sweep in the April 2019 LS polls has not yet changed.
While the cash-for-vote charges against the DMK had led to the EC cancelling the Vellore LS poll along with the general election, Mr. M.K. Stalin as leading the alliance continued to keep the political issues alive, notwithstanding the shrunk margin, compared to the big wins the DMK and allies registered in May 2019.
The wave of resentment against the BJP-led central government during the recent general election may not have been present now, and for all practical purposes the LS poll was more like a bye-election for both the DMK and AIADMK. Nonetheless, the relevance of the issues on which the DMK continued to fight prevailed over other sentiments, giving the opposition party another LS seat.
With just one constituency on hand, the AIADMK campaign led by Chief Minister, Mr. Edappadi K Palaniswami was far more pointed and they could marshal all the support that any ruling party usually has the advantage of. In fact, Mr. Palaniswami said on Saturday that his party “construed” the result as a victory for the ruling party as AIADMK secured more votes than DMK in three Assembly segments of Gudiyatham, K.V. Kuppam and Anaicut.
However, with both the Dravidian majors vying for the substantial minorities vote in Vellore constituency, their consolidation towards the DMK-led alliance was evident with the solid voting seen in favour of Mr. Kathir Anand in Vaniyambadi and Ambur assembly segments. Though it looks like a 50-50, or honours-shared contest, at the end of the day the balance of convenience was clearly in favour of the DMK, though somewhat tenuous this time. Moreover, Mr. A.C. Shanmugam, who had been in and out of the AIADMK in the past, had the enormous comfort of that party's symbol, but not its mandate as he is basically seen as an 'Arni man'.
In fact, the odds were stacked up against the DMK even soon after the Lok Sabha polls with its key all-India ally, Congress, plunging into a leadership crisis soon after the results were announced and the BJP came back to power with a bigger majority at the Centre. The embarrassment was acutely felt by Mr. Stalin for it was he who first proposed Rahul Gandhi as the Prime Ministerial candidate.
Mr. Stalin began to sulk after Rahul Gandhi kept rejecting appeals including his own to reconsider his decision to resign as Congress President accepting moral responsibility for the party's defeat in the Lok Sabha polls. In parallel, strains were also beginning to develop in the DMK-Congress ties at the State level, thanks to some off-the-cuff remarks by former TNCC president Su Thirunavukkarasar that he won on his own steam and popularity from Tiruchirappalli constituency. The DMK's local strongman K N Nehru at once retaliated, but it luckily died out.
What salvaged the DMK-Congress ties was the sagacity and wisdom of the present TNCC president Mr K S Azhagiri, who took a tough stand against the dissenting members who began attacking the alliance, within and outside the party. A senior party functionary from South Chennai, Karate Thyagarajan, was suspended and Mr. Azhagiri also ensured that a former Congress MLA from the Muslim community withdrew his nomination in the Vellore LS poll to keep the alliance going at the ground level. Mr. Azhagiri also promptly came out against MDMK leader Vaiko's below-the-belt attacks on the Congress in the Kashmir issue in the Rajya Sabha, coincidentally on the day people in Vellore were voting.
Thus, a tough election was already built into the poll menu at Vellore. However, it was the AIADMK's contradictory stand on the Triple Talaq bill and its instant formal endorsement of the J and K Reorganisation Bill in Parliament, aided by
Mr. Stalin willing to bear the cross in critiquing the amendments to the NIA Act and flagging the larger issue of insecurity faced by the Minorities which reinforced the DMK's secular credentials.
This largely explains DMK's hard-won victory at Vellore, signs of which were seen at the joint rally on the last day of campaigning there when all its alliance partners, including the IUML, VCK and others, was a cementing factor. But for the AIADMK, the BJP was more conspicuous by its absence in the Vellore campaign.
Further, the DMK's hold over its traditional voters including OBC Vanniyar votes in North Tamil Nadu has not been eroded, notwithstanding perceptions of dynastic politics in the DMK and the Vellore candidate being the son of the party veteran and former minister Durai Murugan....