TTV Dhinakaran has won the bitterly fought RK Nagar bye-election in Chennai -- a poll that was seen by many as a race for late Chief Minister Jayalalithaa's legacy. Dhinakaran polled 89,013 votes out of 1,76,885.
Madhusudhanan, the AIADMK candidate backed by the Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami and O Panneerselvam faction, came a distant second with 48,306 votes. DMK's Maruthu Ganesh stood third with 24, 651 votes, in a big loss of face for the party which has clearly failed to capitalise on the infighting within the AIADMK.
In the 2016 Assembly polls, Jayalalithaa had won 97,218 votes from the same constituency. While Jayalalithaa had got almost 58%, TTV Dhinakaran has managed to secure 50.32% of the total votes.
TTV Dhinakaran maintained a comfortable lead right from the first round of counting and emerged a clear winner as the 19th round of counting was over.
The Queen's Mary College in Chennai which had 14 counting tables saw major drama after the second round of counting. The process was stalled for some time, after Madhusudhanan's supporters clashed with TTV's people. A large number of police personnel and para military forces were brought in to bring the situation under control.
Never before has a bye-election to a single constituency been so high profile. RK Nagar was the constituency of late Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa, and has been vacant ever since her death in December 2016. The bye-poll was originally scheduled to be conducted in April 2017, but was postponed due to widespread allegations of cash for votes.
The poll was a three-way fight between the ruling AIADMK, the opposition DMK, and TTV Dhinakaran as an independent candidate. Dhinakaran was earlier the candidate for the erstwhile Sasikala-EPS faction of the AIADMK, before the factions split and Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami decided to join hands with then-rival O Panneerselvam.
The election was fraught with controversy even until the day before polling.
During nominations, the candidature of actor Vishal, and Jayalalithaaâ€™s niece Deepa Jayakumar, were not accepted by the Election Commission over inconsistencies in their affidavits.
Later, on December 20, a man from the TTV Dhinakaran camp â€“ disqualified MLA Vetrivel â€“ released a video of Jayalalithaa while she was in hospital. He said he was overcome by emotion over allegations that the Sasikala family had a hand in Jayalalithaaâ€™s death, and wanted to disprove rumours that Jayalalithaa had been in a coma throughout the time that she was in hospital.
The Election Commission ordered that the release of the video was a violation of the model code of conduct, and said that the video should not be played by media houses ahead of the election. However, TTV Dhinakaran claimed that he did not know Vetrivel was going to release the video.