New Delhi: Voters in Tamil Nadu’s prestigious RK Nagar constituency, the seat vacated by J Jayalalithaa’s death last year, are casting their ballots once again today to settle the dispute over the late chief minister’s political legacy within the AIADMK. It was earlier scheduled for April 12 earlier this year, but was cancelled following allegations that sums of money were distributed in a vote-for-cash scam.
Campaigning for the high-stakes by-poll came to an end yesterday and counting will be held on December 24.
The major contenders are the merged AIADMK faction’s E Madhusudhanan, sidelined party leader TTV Dinakaran who is contesting as an Independent, DMK's N Marudhu Ganesh and Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) K Nagarajan.
This round of voting is also not devoid of controversy. A Dinakaran loyalist released a video on the eve of the by poll purportedly showing Jayalalithaa in a hospital few days before her death on December 5 last year. Amid questions raised about timing of the about 20-second video, election officials asked channels to stop its telecast, saying it was a violation of the Model Code of Conduct.
Here's the story of the 'prestigious RK Nagar constituency and election chaos'
Though merely a constituency in the state assembly, RK Nagar elections have gripped the nation and has been in the headlines for quite some time now. But what makes this seat so popular and crucial in the state politics?
Following the demise of the then CM Jayalalithaa in December 2016 the seat was left vacant, what followed was a high stake political drama culminating into a prestige battle to be fought electorally on December 21.
After death of Amma, VK Sasikala was made the interim general secretary of AIADMK paving the way for her to become the CM of the state. However, Sasikala’s ambition of being in Amma’s shoes was short lived and the interim CM, O Panneerselvam rebelled against Sasikala and her family. The final blow to Sasikala came after she was found guilty and was convicted in the Disproportionate Asset case in which she was a co-accused with Jayalalithaa.
Right before going to prison, Sasikala made Edappadi K Palaniswami the chief minister of the state and her nephew TTV Dinakaran, the deputy general secretary of AIADMK. This is when O, Pannerselvam broke away from the AIADMK and got into a fight with EPS-Dinakaran camp.
Meanwhile, Election commission announced the by-polls for the RK Nagar constituency and scheduled it for April. However, the election was postponed after EC seized a large amount of cash meant to sway the result. Thing further complicated for Sasikala-Dinakaran faction after Dinakaran was arrested and jailed for allegedly trying to bribe EC officials.
The future of AIADMK as a party was on a stake and so Amma’s reputation who had ruled the RK Nagar constituency for nearly two decades. This led OPS and EPS to come to the negotiating table and Palanaisami finally ceded to the demands put forward by Panneerselvam one of which was to sideline Dinakaran. The two factions then merged getting the party name and the two leaves symbol along the way.
Dinakaran upping the ante formed a new faction to contest the RK Nagar polls. Jayalalithaa's niece also meanwhile jumped into the RK Nagar race.