Tamil Nadu

After a see-saw battle, DMK wins Vellore. The takeaways for Tamil Nadu

The initial sweets were distributed by the AIADMK camp followers. This followed the impressive lead its candidate AC Shanmugham built up in the initial rounds. 

But the ruling party celebrated a bit too soon. Kathir Anand of the DMK soon turned the tables and in the end, managed to scrape through by a margin of 8000-odd votes. 

The Lok Sabha election in Vellore was cancelled after cash that was allegedly kept for distribution among voters was found. The DMK-led alliance swept the polls in Tamil Nadu, going against the BJP wave in the rest of the country. It won 37 of the 38 seats in Tamil Nadu.

Which is why the fact that the DMK was made to sweat in Vellore is significant. Is the narrow margin of victory a warning sign to the DMK not to take 2021 when the next assembly elections are due, for granted? Does it hold out hope for the AIADMK-led alliance in Tamil Nadu?

For one, the DMK internally expected a winning margin of at least 25000 votes. The fact that they ended with 1/3rd that number, would disappoint the DMK. Insiders in the party believe if Vellore had gone to polls in April, it would have been a cakewalk for Anand.

Two, it is important to note that this was a prestige battle for the DMK strongman Durai Murugan as Anand is his son. The fact that he could not pull off a convincing victory would rankle. 

Three, Vellore is home to 2.67 lakh Muslim votes. The DMK would need to analyse if it did not pool in a majority of the minority votes because they were seen as a solid votebank in the pocket. Here it is significant to note that in 2014, Shanmugham as the BJP candidate pushed the IUML candidate (of the DMK-led alliance) to third place. Shanmugham who ended up in second spot, had lost to the AIADMK by 59000 votes.  

At the same time, the fight put in by the AIADMK is being seen more as Shanmugham’s individual effort. Shanmugham, who founded the New Justice Party, has hopped between the AIADMK and the BJP in his political career, runs several colleges and hospitals in Vellore and that makes him an influential and well-known face in the constituency. 

So does the good fight bring no cheer to the AIADMK? Not to the extent that a victory would have. It does not quite indicate that the party is bouncing back after the drubbing on 23 May. 

O Panneerselvam will not have reason to complain because the verdict will mean his son OP Raveendranath remains the sole NDA Lok Sabha MP from Tamil Nadu and the doting father can once again lobby for him to be made a minister in Narendra Modi’s council of ministers. If Shanmugham had won, he by virtue of having been in the BJP before, would have stood a better chance.

If Vellore had been secured, it would have strengthened Edappadi Palaniswami’s position within the party. Now he will have to bide his time and put his plan of ending the dual leadership of the AIADMK in cold storage. 

But the DMK for the record is gloating. Its reasoning being that usually the ruling party wins in byelections. But Vellore saw the opposition DMK winning despite the NDA being in power both in Tamil Nadu and at the Centre.

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