The bypoll in R K Nagar is no mere electoral procedure. The constituency has become the latest battlefield for those fighting over former chief minister J Jayalalithaa's legacy. Family, 'friends' and aides are in the fray while the DMK hopes that the bitter battle works to their advantage. While R K Nagar will be a referendum on the incumbent AIADMK government led by Edappadi Palanisami but run by AIADMK interim general secretary Sasikala Natarajan, it will also show where Panneerselvam stands in the larger scheme of things and if Deepa Jayakumar will ever be a force to reckon with.
The AIADMK on Wednesday announced Sasikala's nephew TTV Dinakaran as their candidate for the bypoll. While he has been an AIADMK MP in Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha earlier, he was ousted by Jayalalithaa personally from the party and was banned from entering the Poes Garden residence, much like most of Sasikala's family. It is indeed an irony that the man who was ousted by the leader is set to contest from her own constituency.
Dinakaran is also convicted in a FERA case by the enforcement directorate and questions are being raised on his eligibility to contest polls. His victory will ensure that he becomes the chief minister of Tamil Nadu. While there is palpable anger against Sasikala and her family in R K Nagar constituency, especially among women, Dinakaran hopes to win by a margin of 50,000 votes. If he does manage it, there is no stopping Sasikala's clan.
For Jayalalithaa's niece Deepa Jayakumar, entry into politics was trigged off by her aunt's death. She resembles Jayalalithaa in appearance and hopes to cash in on the perception. With no experience with politics and no one to guide her, Deepa has been giving mixed signals about her capacity to emerge a leader. She has been vocal about her opposition to Sasikala from day one which has made her popular among those who despise Sasikala's family. She has decided to contest the R K Nagar poll and has already begun her campaign with a sympathy card alleging that she was being threatened to withdraw from the fray. While most belive that Deepa is unlikely to win from the constituency owing to money and muscle power, she will change the face of Tamil Nadu politics if she registers a victory.
Former chief minister O Panneerselvam's camp is all set to field a candidate and have begun their fight for the AIADMK symbol of two leaves. Claiming to be the true party of Jayallaithaa, the R K Nagar bypoll is a matter of survival for O Panneerselvam's camp. Ousted from the party, relieved of his posts, Panneerselvam needs a victory to prove that the people support him in the R K Nagar bypolls but with a divided cadre, Panneerselvam's camp stares at a deadend. While money and muscle power is not a concern for the camp, divided vote share is soemthing to worry about.
All three parties have sought support from anyone who can extend it. Deepa, Panneerselvam and Dinakaran have been vocal about welcoming any support that comes there way for the bypoll but will the people support them ultimately is the question. Each of them are trying to win not a mere bypoll but are set out to prove that Jayalalithaa's legacy belongs to them. The DMK meanwhile, is quietly making preparations to gain out of the situaiton.