It was a pleasant December morning nearly a year ago in 2017 when early leads in the RK Nagar bye-elections began to pour in. The tide, as they say, was turning. In the post-Jayalalithaa electoral landscape of Tamil Nadu, TTV Dhinakaran, nephew of ousted AIADMK General Secretary Sasikala, was fast inching towards victory, defeating veteran AIADMK leader E Madhusudhanan. However, the elections, marred by wide-scale allegations of cash-for-votes, was most embarrassing for the DMK, which lost its deposit, polling a paltry 24,651 votes.
It was a rude shock for the DMK, which had traditionally been the only alternative to the AIADMK in the state. This set the Dravidian party strategizing, forcing them to take full note of the splintered AIADMK MLAs who had declared their allegiance to TTV Dhinakaran earlier in August. It was shortly after this that the TTV Dhinakaran faction got wind that the defeat had prompted the DMK to take note of their faction and its members, in an attempt to poach regional heavyweights. However, with the formal launch of a party in February this year and a full-fledged campaign against Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami and Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam, TTV Dhinakaran focused on bolstering his image across the state, making the EPS-OPS combine his prime political target.
In an unexpected move, nearly a year after TTV Dhinakaran was elected as the MLA of RK Nagar, disqualified Aravakurichi MLA Senthil Balaji jumped ship to the DMK. The development rattled TTV Dhinakaran, who had not anticipated the departure until a few days before the official announcement. With the power move by newly-elected DMK President MK Stalin and more expected to come, the AMMK has now renewed training its guns on the opposition party.
âWe were always against the DMK. Since they are the opposition, we didn't want to talk about them and waste time. So we focussed all our energies and went all out against the AIADMK. We had already defeated the DMK in the RK Nagar bye-elections to the extent that they lost their deposit. Instead of fighting with the AIADMK, MK Stalin started fighting with us. After Senthil Balaji joined there, we have started speaking more about how Stalin has failed as political leader,â says one AMMK leader, admitting there has been a renewed effort to lay into the DMK.
MK Stalin vs. TTV Dhinakaran
The party poaching Senthil Balaji also put to bed AIADMKâs rumour-mongering that the DMK and TTV Dhinakaran had entered into a clandestine partnership to challenge the AIADMK. The rumours had done the rounds following the 2G verdict by a Special CBI Court in December last year acquitting DMK leaders A Raja and MK Kanimozhi. TTV Dhinakaran had welcomed the verdict on âhumanitarian basisâ since two people from Tamil Nadu were acquitted.
The AMMK leader adds, âThe AIADMK is anyway finished. EPS-OPS are done, Rajinikanth is unlikely to enter the electoral fray. The only real opponent is the DMK. Now we will fight them with full force.â
Pointing to MK Stalinâs âmisstepsâ in the recent past, the AMMK leader says, âWithin three days of Senthil Balaji joining the DMK, MK Stalin announced Rahul Gandhi as the Prime Ministerial candidate without consulting his alliance partners. He may have been in politics for over 40 years but this shows his immaturity. Even his alliance partners donât agree with him. I doubt even Rahul Gandhi, who needs all the support he can get, was okay with such a premature announcement.â
Social media wars
While the political leaders battle it out in front of the microphones and cameras, the social media handles of the AMMK have launched an offensive on the DMK and Stalin.
An AMMK leader who works closely with the IT Wing of the AMMK asks, âOur message is very clear. A united Congress alliance would pose a serious challenge to the BJP. But Stalinâs premature announcement to project himself as kingmaker has ensured that the future of the alliance is uncertain. So who is Stalin helping? The Congress or the BJP? We want to tear off this mask that Stalin is the saviour of the Dravidian movement in Tamil Nadu and that he is anti-BJP when in fact he is helping the BJP.â
Over the last week, the AMMKâs presence on Facebook and Twitter, which had previously targeted âdhrohisâ EPS and OPS for their treachery in ousting Sasikala and instating themselves in power, has made DMK the focus of its campaign, with videos and memes intended to evoke laughter.
âThere was no need to beat a dead snake so we had not been this vociferous against the DMK. But now our goal is to undo their image as the party opposed to the BJP. They need the political support of the BJP, especially in the coming days as the 2G verdict comes up in the Delhi High Court. He has never categorically ruled out an alliance with the BJP and this is something our leader has repeatedly pointed out,â says the top leader.