Though DMK’s loss did not surprise many, the extent of loss is a big embarrassment to the party that has just secured a big victory in the 2G case.

DMKs defeat in RK Nagar Even political strategy does not justify the embarrassment
news RK Nagar bye-polls Sunday, December 24, 2017 - 18:09

In what came as a rude shock for the DMK, the party has managed to come in only third in the RK Nagar bye-polls with their candidate Maruthu Ganesh N getting a paltry 24,651 votes, and losing their deposit.

The DMK has lost even their core vote-share, with TTV Dhinakaran emerging victor in a not-so-close contest with the AIADMK.  

Magnitude of loss

The magnitude of loss is certainly important here as it was widely predicted that the DMK might win the constituency given the anger against the ruling government.

TTV, although not written off, was only expected to play spoiler. But this perception had changed as campaign began, and the battle seemed to be between the two AIADMK factions.

Though DMK’s loss did not surprise many, the extent of loss is a big embarrassment to the party that has just secured a big victory in the 2G case.

In the last three bye-elections held in the state, although the DMK had lost, the margin of victory was narrower than in RK Nagar. In the the Thanjavur, Aravakurichi and Thiruparankundram bye-elections held in November 2016, DMK had lost but had managed to retain their core vote-share. However, not retaining their core vote share is a grim loss for the DMK given the 77% voter turnout in RK Nagar- the highest in the constituency.

Short term loss - long-term gain?

Many DMK sympathisers maintain that the loss is a shrewd political move by MK Stalin to ensure TTV Dhinakaran’s victory. TTV’s victory would lead to instability once again, making the political situation conducive for the DMK. Soon after the loss, a few DMK leaders also said that this was an election in which they refused to pay bribes. But even if it was DMK’s strategy to let TTV Dhinakaran win to create political instability in the state and thereby reap a long term gain, their candidate losing so pathetically just does not justify the strategy.

The DMK has clearly lost the perception battle.

Stalin’s ‘adopted child’ analogy doesn’t work

The RK Nagar elections were cancelled in April and postponed to December due to widespread allegations of corruption. However, even as early as April, DMK’s Working President Stalin had steered the campaign for the DMK’s candidate Maruthu Ganesh. When campaigning for Maruthu Ganesh back in April, Stalin had declared that RK Nagar was his adopted constituency. He said, “Kolathur(his constituency) is my favourite child. But I will treat R.K. Nagar as my adopted child. I will work together with Maruthu Ganesh since one MLA cannot resolve the problems of the constituency.”

In fact, DMK had begun the first RK Nagar campaign in April with criticism of how low the AIADMK factions had stooped. He was referring to the use of a mock Jayalalithaa’s coffin. The splitting of the AIADMK into two- Sasikala’s faction and O Panneerselvam’s faction- had been widely touted to help the fortunes of the DMK.

Stability factor

Given the fragile political situation in Tamil Nadu, the DMK was banking on the people’s desire for stability post the death of late Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa. However, this primarily appears to be a clear failure on the part of the DMK to tap into the anti-incumbency factor as well as the chaotic political situation in the state. Soon after former Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa’s death in December 2016, the AIADMK split into two: Sasikala’s faction and O. Panneerselvam’s faction. This political chaos had caused a lot of furore in the state. Adding to this, the series of troubles that plagued the state saw the covert hand of the Central government from the jallikattu protests to the tragic suicide of a student named Anita and the devastating effects of Cyclone Ockhi.

Video wreaked havoc?

A day before the polling independent candidate TTV Dhinakaran’s camp released a video of Jayalalithaa in hospital where she was seen sipping a glass of juice, presumably watching TV. Stalin had ruled out the video’s role in the elections and said, “this will not affect the bye-poll.” He also expressed disgust at such cheap acts taking place a day before the elections. However, the video appears to have gone some way to assuaging Jayalalithaa’s constituents that she was alive and conscious before her eventually fatal cardiac arrest.

While the long-term future of the party will be unaffected by the results, the 2G verdict in favour of A Raja and Kanimozhi and the campaign itself seems to have had zero effect on the RK Nagar voters.

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