The Election Commission's announcement that all 22 bye-polls in Tamil Nadu will be held in the next few weeks has left the opposition parties elated ahead of the polls. DMK chief MK Stalin is confident that his party will win all 22 bye-elections and form the next government. But P Vetrivel, the MLA candidate from TTV Dhinakaran's AMMK, dismisses Stalin's euphoria and says it is his party that will decide the fate of the Tamil Nadu government.
The bye-elections to the 22 seats will seal the fate of the Eddapadi Palaniswami-led government that is presently sitting on a wafer-thin majority. With 113 MLAs excluding the Speaker, the AIADMK needs to win at least five constituencies to stay in power. The majority mark in the TN Assembly with a strength of 235 legislators is 118.
"The Edappadi government is a minority government and the AMMK is sure to win several bye-poll constituencies, just like we won in RK Nagar. We will definitely decide what happens next to the state government," Vetrivel tells TNM.
The AMMK leader is also contesting from the Perambur state assembly constituency where he was disqualified from in 2017. He, along with 17 other MLAs of the AIADMK had approached the Governor expressing lack of confidence in Edappadi Palaniswami as Chief Minister.
Speaking about his constituency, Vetrivel says, "No development or any kind of work has happened here since my disqualification. The government believed it was punishing me and instead punished the people of my constituency."
In the one year that he held the post, the AMMK leader says he had circled out the most important issues that need to be addressed.
"The Kodungaiyur dumping yard is the biggest bane of the people who live in Perambur. When I was in power I had already spoken to former Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa about the issue and we agreed to reduce it to a 30 acre landfill and also begin processing the waste that is already present," he says. The landfill is currently 270 acres and residents in the area have constantly complained of contamination of the air and drinking water. "But she (Jayalalithaa) fell ill following this discussion and then later, we were at odds with Edappadi," he adds.
In addition to this, Vetrivel explains that when TTV Dhinakaran was the deputy secretary of the AIADMK, it was decided that land would be alloted to Muslims, Christians and Hindus for the purpose of burial or cremation.
"I even spent Rs.4 crore from my funds to build a small bridge to access the grounds. But it was all brought to a halt when I was disqualified," says Vetrivel. "All I am asking is that the people allow me to finish what I have already started for this constituency," he adds.
The AMMK leader dismisses competition from the DMK and AIADMK candidate from the constituency. He further dismisses the 'DMK bastion' tag that North Chennai holds.
"The DMK candidate RD Sekar had earlier won in this constituency as a Councillor and he failed to do enough work for the people, so they don't want him back," says Vetrivel. "If this was a DMK bastion, why did they lose deposit in the RK Nagar elections?" he asks.
But what about allegations of all the parties bribing voters?
"Cash for votes will always remain an allegation. There is not much we can do about it," he says. "Even if people take money, we know they will vote for the right party."