All eyes are on RK Nagar, the constituency of late Chief Minister J.Jayalalithaa, where campaigning is underway for the by-polls to be held three weeks from now. The constituency has over 1,95,000 voters and has been a stronghold of the AIADMK since 2001. In 2016, Jayalalithaa won this seat with more than 97,000 votes beating the DMK candidate. With the split in AIADMK now, the result will be crucial for rival factions – one lead by Sasikala and TTV Dinakaran and the other by O.Paneerselvam. Although the support of majority of the legislators continues to lie with Sasikala faction, there has been popular support for OPS. But at the end of the day, it will come down to numbers.
In an elaborate scheme to take over the party, Sasikala ensured that TTV Dinakaran, her nephew, was elected as the deputy General Secretary just as she was sentenced to jail, effectively disqualifying her from electoral politics. In her absence the family would continue to keep a tight rein on the party by ensuring that it was TTV Dinakaran at the helm of affairs. And in keeping with this plan, he was fielded as the candidate for R.K Nagar. OPS who was made to resign as Chief Minister revolted but failed to gather the support he needed.
With both factions staking claim to the famous two leaves symbol, in a repeat of the 1989, the election commission chose to freeze it and gave the two factions new names and new symbols – OPS’s AIADMK Puratchi Thalaivi Amma gets electric pole while TTV Dhinakaran’s AIADMK Amma gets the hat symbol.
TTV Dinakaran – AIADMK Amma
According to The News Minute, TTV Dinakaran, in his election affidavit declared that he is an agriculturist. The 54 year old is not new to politics having served as Rajya Sabha MP and a Lok Sabha MP from Periyakulam.
While Dhinakaran himself has assets worth just Rs 68 lakh, his wife and child’s assets amount to Rs 9.59 crore and Rs 49 lakh respectively. In fact, every immovable asset except their house in Mylapore is in Dhinakaran’s wife’s name. And the house - which is in Adyar with a total land area of 8726 square feet, with a built up area of 7500 square feet - is valued at a total of around Rs 1.14 crore, with Dhinakaran’s share pegged at around Rs 57 lakh.
Dinakaran has also disclosed as liability, a penalty relating to a case under Foreign Exchange Regulation Act. Accused of acquiring more than 10 million USD from unauthorised dealers, the FERA Board ordered him to pay a penalty of Rs.28 crores.
The Hindu reported that Dinakaran who was a party to the Disproportionate Assets case through an additional charge sheet escaped conviction as it was found that Jayalalithaa and he acquired hotels in London worth Rs.280 crores through illegal money transfers. The Supreme Court noted –
Even though there is evidence regarding acquisition of property in London and its subsequent disposal, it will be difficult to prove connection between the sources illegally acquired in India by a public servant (Jayalalithaa) and the payment of consideration for the sale abroad, as according to the prosecution case, the money available in India has been utilised for purchase of property abroad by adopting hawala means. It is thus difficult to prove this aspect of the case. The evidence regarding Mr. Dinakaran, acquiring properties abroad, cannot be of much assistance unless it is shown that the source to acquire the property belonged to Jayalalithaa, who alone is a public servant in the case,
E.Madhusudhanan – AIADMK Puratchi Thalaivi Amma
A hardcore MGR loyalist, Madhusudhanan is OPS’s choice of candidate. As a resident of north Chennai for more than five decades, he is seen as a son of the soil, giving him a distinct advantage. According to the Deccan Chronicle –
Madhusudhanan was first elected to legislative assembly in 1991 from R K Nagar. He defeated V Rajasekaran of Janata Party by a margin of 25,000 votes. In 1989, he contested under faction led by Jayalalithaa and lost the polls to DMK's Sargunam in R K Nagar. Throughout his political career, he enjoined party posts ranging from district secretary to the coveted post of presidium chairman.
Madhusudhanan’s close ties with Jayalalithaa are being constantly played up during campaigning to counter Dinakaran’s money power and capitalise on people’s anger against Sasikala. During door-to door campaigning in the constituency, senior leaders from the OPS faction urged people to vote for the electric pole symbol and defeat Dinakaran. Mafoi Pandiarajan said –
The people are angry about two things: the way in which former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa’s hospitalisation was handled and the hijacking of the party by Sasikala’s family. Apart from these, several developmental issues have also been ignored in the last 6-9 months because of lack of governance
Deepa Jayakumar – Independent
Jayalalithaa’s niece, Deepa Jayakumar, during her first speech in RK Nagar said that she had not come into politics by choice but because people have urged her to take her aunt’s place as the legitimate heir.
Denied permission to visit Jayalalithaa when she was at Apollo, Deepa has since risen to prominence constantly hinting at a political entry which she has now finally done. With an MA in International Journalism from Cardiff University, Deepa floated the MGR Amma Deepa Peravai. However, she is now contesting as an independent according to her affidavit.
Gangai Amaran - BJP
The BJP has infused celebrity into the fray by fielding music composer Gangai Amaran as their candidate. Amaran is the younger brother of Illayaraja and has composed music for more than 50 films. His sons Venkat Prabhu and Premgi are still in the film industry.
Tamilisai Soundarajan, President of state BJP introduced him at a press meet saying that he had been a member of the BJP for the last three years and received his membership card from party President Amit Shah.
Lauding him for his work with the party and his participation in all meetings, she said that Amaran was their first choice.
Marudhu Ganesh – DMK
My support is for no one in the coming elections.— Rajinikanth (@superstarrajini) March 23, 2017
First timer Marudhu Ganesh has been fielded by the DMK to capitalise on the possibility of the AIADMK votes getting split. According to this article in The Deccan Chronicle, a journalist and lawyer, Ganesh hails from a middle class family with strong ties to the DMK and is well known among party cadre. The News Minute reports –
The 42-year-old BCom and LLB graduate has one case pending against him under the Tamil Nadu Open Places (Prevention of Disfigurement) Act. Maruthu Ganesh was considered a surprise choice, being a relatively unknown face in the DMK. Being the party’s RK Nagar East Division Secretary, the DMK hopes choosing a local man will pay dividend in the bye-election.
Amidst the heated contest with important political consequences for each party, there is a sense of discontent among people. K.V Lakshmana in The Hindustan Times –
Back in the lanes and bylanes of RK Nagar, there is a growing sense of being let down by the politicians who seem preoccupied by their own political necessities. “If there is a credible alternative, we will surely consider. But for the present, it is either the AIADMK or the DMK,” says S Prakash, a medical representative.
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