The Erode (East) Assembly constituency in Tamil Nadu, is witnessing a bypoll following the sudden demise of the Congress MLA E. Thirumahan Everaa who was the great grandson of Dravidar Kazhagam founder ‘Periyar’ E.V. Ramasamy and the son of former Tamil Nadu Congress Committee (TNCC) president E.V.K.S. Elangovan. The 46-year-old legislator died of cardiac arrest on January 4, 2023.
The announcement of the by-election by the Election Commission of India came within two weeks, on January 18.
On January 19, a statement issued on behalf of the DMK-led Secular Progressive Alliance (SPA) said Chief Minister M.K. Stalin, after a meeting with leaders of parties in the alliance, decided to allot the Erode (East) Assembly seat to the Congress. Initially, Mr. Everaa’s brother, E. Sanjay Sampath was speculated to be a potential candidate for the bypoll, after Mr. Elangovan indicated his unwillingness to contest.
However, the Congress, in a surprising move, on January 22, fielded Mr. Elangovan as its candidate.
In a significant development, actor/politician Kamal Haasan’s Makkal Needhi Maiam (MNM) which has up until now, neither extended support nor joined any alliance with any major party, for the first time extended support to the Congress.
There were several developments in the camp of the main Opposition party, the AIADMK. In the 2021 Assembly election, the Erode (East) seat had been allotted by the AIADMK to its alliance partner, the Tamil Maanila Congress (TMC). However, after a meeting with senior AIADMK leaders, TMC president G.K. Vasan announced that his party had accepted the AIADMK’s request to contest in the bypoll. The AIADMK then fielded two-time MLA K.S. Thennarasu as its candidate.
The AIADMK’s deposed coordinator O. Panneerselvam, meanwhile, fielded his camp’s candidate, Senthil Murugan, but with a caveat: in the event of the BJP putting up its nominee, his candidate would opt out of the fray. The BJP, an ally of the AIADMK intervened, and following meetings of the BJP Tamil Nadu leadership with both AIADMK interim general secretary Edappadi K. Palaniswami and Mr. Panneerselvam and its calls for “a united AIADMK”, Mr. Panneerselvam eventually withdrew his candidate from the fray.
However, a legal tussle over the party’s leadership continued. The decks though, were cleared for the AIADMK’s candidate K.S. Thennarasu, after the Supreme Court directed the choice of AIADMK candidate to be put to the party general council and the Election Commission later accepted Mr. Thennarasu’s candidature.
The AIADMK is straining every nerve to demonstrate that it continues to be a force to reckon with in west Tamil Nadu, which is considered its bastion.
Meanwhile, the Naam Tamilar Katchi (NTK) which named Menaka Navaneedhan and Desiya Murpokku Dravidar Kazhagam (DMDK) which named S. Anand as their candidates are to go it alone.
The Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam (AMMK) which fielded A.M. Shiva Phrashanth opted out of the poll fray at the eleventh hour after the Election Commission of India refused to allot the ‘pressure cooker’ symbol (the symbol used by the party during 2019 Lok Sabha election and 2021 Assembly election) to it for the bypoll.
The PMK, in continuation of its stance on the issue, announced that it would not contest in the bypoll, as it considered the exercise unnecessary and a waste of money.
While winning the bypoll is a matter of prestige for the ruling DMK as the outcome may be viewed as a sort of referendum over its nearly two-year old government and it would also set the tone for 2024 Lok Sabha polls, it means a boost to the image of the principal Opposition party, the AIADMK, led by its interim general secretary Edappadi K. Palaniswami.
A total of 77 candidates are in the fray. As a result, five ballot machines bearing 16 symbols each are being used in every polling booth.
The constituency has a total of 2,26,898 voters including 1,10,713 men, 1,16,140 women and 23 transgendered persons.
There are a total of 238 polling stations including 34 vulnerable ones. A total of 1,430 ballot units, 286 control units and 310 voter-verifiable paper audit trials (VVPATs) are being put to use.
Led by the District Election Officer H. Krishnanunni, as many as 286 presiding officers, 858 polling officers, 62 additional officers, and 286 micro-observers, and more than 2,100 police and paramilitary personnel are on poll duty. Additional paramilitary personnel were posted at 34 vulnerable booths. A public holiday was declared for government offices and educational institutions in the constituency. Liquor shops located within a five km radius of polling stations remain closed from February 25 to 27.
The votes will be counted on March 2, 2023.