Battle at its best: ADMK's OPS to contest in the Erode East bypoll against EPS...What we can expect?

For the first time since their years-long political tussle to take over the leadership, ADMK's Edappadi Palaniswami (EPS) and O Panneerselvam (OPS) would stage a electoral battle against each other in the upcoming bypoll in the Erode East constituency, that fell vacant after the shocking demise of Congress MLA Thirumahan Everaa, who died at the age of 46 due to heart attack on January 4. 

Recently, the Election Commission has announced that the Erode East constituency will go for a bypoll on February 27. As the ruling DMK has already announced that its ally Congress will contest in the bypoll again, the latest developments suggest that there could be the first electoral battle between both the rivaling ADMK leaders EPS and OPS. As the poll will be held at the high time amid their legal battle to win the party and its symbol, we can expect that its more likely that neither of them would contest in the 'Two leaves' symbol. 

In the 2021 assembly polls, Congress's Thirumahan Everaa ran in Erode East against the candidate from Tamil Maanila Congress (TMC), an ally of ADMK. While TMC chief GK Vasan held talks with ADMK's EPS to contest from the seat again. However, on Friday, Vasan announced that ADMK will contest from Erode East and that his party would forgo the seat in the best interest of the alliance. While EPS decided to field his candidate in the race, there was a strong question about the stand of OPS. 

As OPS didn't have a strong community backing in Erode East like how EPS has, it was reported that OPS won't field his candidate as the debacle would land his leadership in more trouble. However, OPS took everyone by surprise as he announced on Saturday that he will also field a candidate against his rival EPS. OPS is also working out a 'Plan B' to support BJP's candidate if the saffron party breaks ties with EPS and decides to contest independently in the bypoll. 

The events display there is a lot of political activities going on around Erode East and if BJP didn't contest the bypoll, we can expect that OPS will field a candidate from the strong Kongu community to give a tough fight to EPS, who will also award the seat to his Kongu community. As both the rivals battle in the election against each other, the sources say that ADMK's Two leaves symbol would be ceased and that they both have to contest in two different symbols and if that happens, we can witness an election without the Two leaves symbol on the ballot for the first time in several decades. 

When asked if his decision, especially with EPS already making it clear that his dominant faction is keen on seeking electoral fortunes from the Erode East constituency, could stir confusion among the party members and the electorate, OPS said, "It is he (EPS) who is creating confusion. Ask him." OPS said that his party would accept any symbol allotted by the Election Commission in case the party symbol could not be retained. 

Addressing the reporters, OPS further said, "It's only Palaniswami who has been a stumbling block in rejecting a unification and also in staking a claim for the Two leaves symbol, on which we have complete rights." OPS has also said that he would seek support from the BJP for his candidate if the national party is not contesting in the bypoll. As the parties are counting days for the bypoll, the voters are closely watching on who would finally get listed in the ballot so that they can give their verdict. 

OPS's announcement that he will field a candidate in the Erode East bypoll had sparked furore in the ADMK and EPS faction has held a sudden meeting on Saturday at the party's head office in Chennai. The meeting was attended by senior leaders D Jayakumar, KP Munusamy, P Thangamani, Dindigul Srinivasan, and KA Sengottaiyan and they discussed about the announcement from OPS and after the meeting, the ADMK leaders went to the state BJP headquarters to meet the BJP leaders, which showcased that amid their rivalry, both EPS and OPS are on the same page when it comes to acquiring the support from BJP.