For the BJP in Tamil Nadu, this seems to be the obverse of a dress rehearsal for the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections.
In a tactical move, the saffron party has surprised political circles by deciding to boycott the Jan 9 Assembly by-election from Thirumangalam constituency near Madurai, about 470 km South of Chennai, where a vacancy has been caused by the death of an MDMK member, Mr Veera Ilavarasan, last month.
With the main opposition AIADMK led by Ms. Jayalalithaa having sewn up an electoral alliance with the Communist parties, a left-alone BJP sees this as a good opportunity to see how the two main contestants, the DMK-led front and the AIADMK-MDMK-Left alliance will fare in this contest.
The by-poll being seen as a popular mood reader in the run-up to the Parliamentary polls could be gauged from the fact that the DMK has nominated the Chief Minister, Mr. M. Karunanidhi’s Madurai-based elder son, M.K.Azhagiri, to head the poll panel there.
The by-election is set to be a three-cornered contest as the DMDK led by actor-turned-politician, Vijayakant, has also decided to contest that seat alone. The DMK had yesterday announced the candidature of Mrs. Latha Adhiyaman, widow of the late party MLA, MCSA Adhiyaman, belonging to the OBC ‘Thevar’ community. The AIADMK will contest the seat since ‘Amma’ convinced the MDMK leader Mr Vaiko, to part with it.
As the triangular contest profile shaping up at Thirumangalam promises to be a mirror of things to come at least in the Southern districts, the BJP is nonetheless, yet to decide on whom they will back in the by-elections even if it will not field its candidate.
The official reason though given for the poll boycott by the BJP is that the by-election itself “is not necessary” as it was being held by the Election Commission (EC) based on the old constituency mapping.
Already, “the EC has recognized the delimitation of the constituencies in Tamil Nadu which has also been approved by the President of India and gazetted. As the re-drawn boundaries do not match with the old one, why hold election at all for Thirumangalam, a defunct constituency?” fumed the State BJP President, Mr Ela Ganesan.
Even the just concluded elections to the five State Assemblies was on the basis of the freshly delimited constituencies, Mr. Ganesan pointed out, speaking to HT in Chennai on Wednesday, adding, the election was announced only because the stakes were too high for the ruling DMK.
Though politically friendless in Tamil Nadu now, Mr Ganesan sees this predicament more as an opportunity to assess the relative strengths of the various parties in the run-up to the Lok Sabha polls. “We are preparing ourselves to contest on our own all the 39 LS seats in the State and as of now not looking for any alliance,” he categorically said.
The BJP leader did not entirely rule out the possibility of some parties joining them later, but said, “We are not actually talking to any party today including Vijayakant’s DMDK.” “We want to send a few MPs’ from here to Lok Sabha on our own,” he added. It is this macro-strategy that has lent more significance to the BJP skipping the by-poll.
Meanwhile, the Madras High Court on Wednesday dismissed a petition seeking a direction to the EC that by-election to another ‘vacant’ seat, Mangalore in Cuddalore district, should also be held along with Thirumangalam. The State told the Court when the case came up that the resignation of the Dalit Panthers of India (DPI) MLA, Mr Selva Perunthagai, who had later joined Ms. Mayawati’s BSP, from the Assembly, was not in order.