Chennai: While the rest of India waits anxiously for the Lok Sabha polls tally when the votes are counted on Thursday, the focus in Tamil Nadu may be more on the outcome of the by-elections to the 22 Assembly constituencies. Reason: adverse results can bring down the AIADMK government two years short of its term.
In the TN Assembly of 234 seats, the ruling party now has 113 and that's five short of the majority mark of 118 (not taking the Speaker into account). With three of its legislators - V T Kalaiselvan, E Rathinasabapathy and A Prabhu - openly siding with TTV Dhinakaran and the Supreme Court staying the recent disqualification notice issued to them by Speaker P Dhanapal, the numbers have got a bit complicated for the AIADMK as it may now need more than five to stay safe.
In fact, the Edappadi Government would need 11 seats out of the 22 to stay safe, if one takes note of the perennial fence sitters in Karunas, Tamimum Ansari and Thaniyarasu. These three men had won their seats in the 2016 poll on the AIADMK's two-leaves symbol but have been playing hard to get in the post-Jayalalithaa period.
The Opposition DMK has 88 legislators in the present Assembly and can bank on the support of the Congress (8) and IUML (1). DMK president MK Stalin seems confident even in the face of rather depressing exit polls that the final outcome at the end of the vote-counting will be sweet.
“When the votes are counted tomorrow, be sure Rahul Gandhi will be the Prime Minister and the DMK will rule Tamil Nadu”, Stalin declared at an Iftar party here late Wednesday. But to justify that confidence, he must win 21 of the 22 seats now contested, unless he manages to get the support of TTV.
DMK sources insist that they would 'sweep' the by-elections and even if that does not materialise, “there can be no doubt we will win handsomely in the midterm polls that will soon happen”.
They say the party is not keen on support from the TTV block. But for Team Edappadi-OPS, there has been much to cheer from the exit polls predicting the return of Narendra Modi as the PM. The AIADMK Ministers have made no secret of their confidence - proclaiming loud from campaign podiums in fact - that their government would not just survive but thrive superbly with Modiji in command at Delhi....