Tamil Nadu is set to witness its next big political fight on April 12 after AIADMK deputy general secretary and Sasikala’s nephew TTV Dhinakaran announced Wednesday that he would contest the by-elections to RK Nagar, the seat left vacant after the death of former chief minister J Jayalalithaa.
Dhinakaran claimed he would win by “50,000 votes,” and that the only opponents were the DMK, a veiled snub at Deepa Jayaraman, who had announced lsat month she would contest the by-election to her late aunt’s constituency.
“I want to continue the good work of Amma and it’s because the party people feel I can do it that they have convinced me to contest. I will take steps to ensure that Jayalalithaa’s schemes are implemented in RK Nagar,” Dhinakaran told reporters outside the AIADMK headquarters in Royapettah on Wednesday morning.
Though he has denied that he would replace K Palaniswami as chief minister if he was victorious in RK Nagar, experts believe that there still is a chance Sasikala’s nephew may make a bid for the top post.
Dhinakaran, who was expelled from the party in 2011 by Jayalalithaa was a member of the Lok Sabha in 1999 and a member of the Rajya Sabha from 2004-2010.
He was named deputy general secretary of the party by his aunt VK Sasikala, hours before she was jailed in a disproportionate assets case in February.
Dhinakaran was found guilty of money laundering and benami transactions in 1996, with the Madras high court enforcing a penalty of Rs 25 crores on him in January earlier this year.
He also has two additional FERA cases pending.
The DMK, meanwhile, announced that N Maruthu Ganesh was their official candidate for the by-elections. This will be the first election for Ganesh, who is currently east division secretary for RK Nagar.
Deepa, who formally unveiled her new party on February 24, the MGR Amma Deepa Peravai (MAD-P), has seen her popularity soar across Chennai despite her political inexperience, largely due to the physical resemblance between her and her late aunt.
Whether the April 12 by-elections become a truly multi-pronged contest depends largely on the O Panneerselvam faction of the AIADMK, which visited the Central Election Commission in Delhi on Wednesday demanding that the two leaves symbol of the ruling party be given to them.
Panneerselvam, who staged a dramatic rebellion against jailed party leader VK Sasikala after her attempt to become chief minister, has yet to declare whether his faction will field a candidate or not.
While it may be only one seat, given the stakes and the overwhelming public disapproval that the AIADMK now faces following their botched attempt to make VK Sasikala chief minister, it’s clear that the results of the RK Nagar elections may spell out the future of the ruling party.