The result of a single by-election rarely captures the political mood of a state and so the meaning of the election in the R K Nagar constituency in Tamil Nadu should not be exaggerated. But the spectacular victory of T T V Dhinakaran, nephew of V K Sasikala, who is in jail, and leader of the AIADMK faction led by her, will have a considerable impact on the state's politics. It might lead to a churn in the near term. It was a seat represented by the late J Jayalalithaa and the electoral fight was deemed to be a fight for her political legacy. This had been claimed by the combination of the faction led by Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami and O Panneerslevam, which has the name and symbol of the party. But as an independent candidate, Dhinakaran, who has been caught in cases and financial scandals, has won more votes than the combined
votes of the AIADMK and the opposition DMK.
The EPS-OPS combine has many reasons to worry. The result has emboldened Dhinakaran to claim that his is the real AIADMK party. There is a feeling that the ruling faction is controlled by the Centre and the BJP and that would not have done it any good in the election. The elderly AIADMK candidate E Madhusudhanan did not also impress the voters as the youthful Dhinakaran did. The EPS-OPS government has become particularly vulnerable after the elections. The case relating to the disqualification of 18 MLAs of the Sasikala group is yet to be decided. The outcome of the case will be critical for the future of the present government. Even otherwise, there is likely to be desertions from the ruling side to the Sasikala faction. The AIADMK's internal problems might get aggravated and the fight for Jayalalithaa's legacy might be considered open.
The DMK candidate, supported by the Congress, the left parties and others, lost his deposit and finished third in the contest. This is as surprising as the huge victory of Dhinakaran, and shows a huge erosion in the support for the DMK. The core support of the DMK seems to have shrunk and this should normally be a matter of concern for the party which was expected to benefit from the troubles in the AIADMK. But it is also possible that DMK cadres did not vote or may have done some tactical voting, because the DMK might gain from a victory for Dhinakaran. The by-election has thrown many possibilities open in the state's politics. They may also have an impact on national politics because the AIADMK has 37 Lok Sabha MPs and 12 Rajya Sabha MPs.