Polling for the high stakes by-election to four constituencies in Tamil Nadu will get underway on Sunday. While the by-polls to 18 seats were held along with Lok Sabha polls on April 18 in the state, four other assembly segments — Sulur, Aravakurichi, Ottapidaram (SC) and Thiruparankundram go for polls on May 19.
The Sulur seat fell vacant in March following the death of AIADMK MLA R Kanakaraj who died following a cardiac arrest. Ottapidaram(SC) constituency is represented by disqualified AIADMK MLA Sundararaj while Thirupparankundram legislator AK Bose also belonging to AIADMK died last year. Aravakurichi is represented by Senthil Balaji, a disqualified AIADMK legislator who has joined DMK.
According to Chief Electoral Officer Satyabrata Sahoo, a total of 137 candidates are in the fray in the assembly constituencies with Aravakurichi leading with 63 MLA aspirants.
A total of 15,939 police personnel have been deployed to maintain law and order.
The outcome of the by-polls to a total of 22 seats will decide the future political course in Tamil Nadu as the results would determine the continuance of the two-year-old Palaniswami government.
Arch rivals AIADMK and DMK have left no stone unturned to ensure victory, with their leaders, Chief Minister K Palaniswami and DMK President MK Stalin embarking on a hectic campaign trail in order to win the race.
AIADMK rebel and Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam leader T T V Dhinakaran, Kamal Haasan’s Makkal Needhi Maiam, actor-director Seeman’s Naam Tamizhar Katchi have fielded candidates in the four constituencies, making it a multi-cornered contest.
The campaign trail turned hot in its last leg, after Haasan stoked a major political row with his Hindu extremist remarks, labelling Mahatma Gandhi’s killer Nathuram Godse as one.
He had said “free India’s first extremist” was Godse and that he was a Hindu, drawing strong condemnation from BJP and the AIADMK, even as cases were filed against Haasan.
He, however, found support from the Congress’ state unit and rationalist outfit Dravidar Kazhagam.
In the 234-member Tamil Nadu assembly with 22 vacancies, the AIADMK has a strength of 113, excluding the Speaker. The simple majority mark in the full House is 117.