With a high profile electoral contest ongoing in the wake of former Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa's death, all eyes are on the RK Nagar constituency in north Chennai. The constituency which fell vacant upon Jayalalithaaâ€™s death on December 5, 2016 had its bye-election cancelled on April 12 this year owing to widespread allegations of corruption. Subsequently, the Election Commissione announced fresh elections for December 21, 2017. With Jayalalithaa's niece Deepa and actor Vishal also throwing their hat into the ring, the constituency has drawn increasing attention in recent weeks. As the RK Nagar bye-election looms closer, TNM takes a look at the brief legislative history of the north Chennai constituency.
Radhakrishnan Nagar, named after the second President of independent India, is a legislative constituency of the unicameral Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly. Located in north Chennai, it is was carved out as a constituency for the 1977 Legislative Assembly elections with a population of 1,78,751 voters.
With MG Ramachandran's exit from the DMK in 1972, the newly formed AIADMK was facing its first Assembly elections in the state in 1977. Having won the parliamentary bye-elections at Dindigul in 1973 and the legislative bye-election at Coimbatore in 1974, the party had reason to be confident, especially banking on the star power of their chief ministerial candidate and popular actor MGR. By the time the elections had rolled around, there were public campaigns announcing defection of DMK members to AIADMK.
In Radhakrishnan Nagar, known primarily for its fishing populace, the AIADMK candidate Isari Velan emerged victorious with 28,416 votes, after a closely fought battle against RD Seethapathy, who earned 26,928 votes. This was a telling victory for the party given the fact that RD Seethapathy was a well-established old timer(who later ended up rebelling against the DMK party chief Karunanidhi in 1983). AIADMK formed the government with 130 seats, under MG Ramachandran, defeating the DMK, Congress and Janata Party.
However, fresh elections were called for in 1980 after the DMK-Congress alliance managed to force a dismissal of MGR's administration citing allegations of corruption, just as MGR had managed to get Indira Gandhi to dismiss Karunanidhi's administration in 1976. The RK Nagar constituency was one among the three constituencies which had the most number of candidates- 11, of whom nine candidates lost their deposits. V Rajasekaran of the Indian National Congress won the constituency with 44,076 votes, defeating incumbent Isari Velan by 7,188 votes. Again, in 1984, Congress' M Venugopal managed a victory over DMK's Sarkunam by a little less than 4,000 votes.
In the aftermath of MG Ramachandran's death in 1987, his widow Janaki Ramachandran managed to cobble together an alliance in a drastically diminished Legislative Assembly. In 1989, Rajiv Gandhi's dismissal of the government forced fresh elections upon the state. Under these circumstances and riding on the sympathy wave surrounding the death of MGR, the loss of the north Chennai seat to DMK's Sarkunam marked out an area of focus for the party which was only then beginning to consolidate under Jayalalithaa's leadership.
Having faced defeat in her first electoral contest, Jayalalithaa decided to field E Madhusudhanan once again in 1991 where he won decisively. Of the 1,13,180 votes polled, Madhusudhanan had garnered 66,710. Another swing of the pendulum resulted in DMKâ€™s Sarkunam's victory once again in 1996, making it the female legislator's second outing in the Assembly. This was the election in which party leader Jayalalithaa herself lost her seat in Bargur, Krishnagiri.
When the AIADMK won the elections once again in 2001, newbie Sekar Babu won over Sarkunam with a victory margin of over 27,000 votes. AIADMK's Babu once again won in 2006 with the DMK being voted to power, only to defect to the DMK in 2011, just in time for the next state elections.
In 2011, Jayalalithaa loyalist P Vetrivel managed to take over the seat in an election that the AIADMK decisively won. However, Vetrivel stepped down as MLA in May 2015 to make way for Jayalalithaa. The former CM had been disqualified as a legislator in the Disproportionate Assets by the trial court in September 2014. Following her acquittal by the Karnataka High Court, Jayalalithaa contested from the RK Nagar constituency, winning the bye-election with a massive margin of 1.5 lakh votes.
A year later, Jayalalithaa retained the RK Nagar constituency in the 2016 Assembly Elections. With her party winning 134 seats in the polls, Jayalalithaa created history by becoming the first leader to retain power in Tamil Nadu since 1989.
After Jayalalithaa's death in December 2016, the seat again opened up. However, following allegations of wide scale corruption, the April 2017 elections were cancelled. The Election Commission has called for fresh elections in the constituency in December. Among the candidates are AIADMKâ€™s Madhusudhanan, AIADMK (Amma)â€™s TTV Dhinakaran, DMKâ€™s Maradhu Ganesh and BJPâ€™s Karu Nagarajan.
The stakes are high at the RK Nagar bye-elections. For the ruling AIADMK and for TTV Dhinakaran, the December 21 contest could very well decide who can rightfully claim Jayalalithaaâ€™s legacy, while for the opposition DMK, it could be a chance to renew its attack on the Edappadi-led government.