EPS vs OPS vs Annamalai...The trilogy of political fight in the Erode East bypoll: What's going on?

As the election fever is back in Tamil Nadu, the state is closely watching the political tussle with regard to bypoll in the Erode East constituency. The date is announced and the race is triggered and the bypoll will be held on February 27, 2023 while the results will be announced on March 2. In what would probably be the last bypoll ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha polls, the top parties are vying to hit the jackpot.

The bypoll was necessitated after the shocking demise of Erode East Congress MLA Thirumahan Everaa who died on January 4 at the age of 46 due to heart attack. In the 2021 assembly polls, DMK had awarded the Erode East seat to the Congress party while the ADMK gave it to its ally Tamil Maanila Congress (TMC). While it was speculated that the bypoll would witness a rematch between these two allied parties, DMK let the Congress party to contest again but the ADMK has twisted the tale. 

On Thursday, TMC chief GK Vasan had held talks with the ADMK leaders concerning the bypoll and on Friday, Vasan officially announced that the ADMK will contest in the Erode East bypoll. In a statement, GK Vasan said, "ADMK wanted to contest in the byelections considering the current political situation and future elections. This decision has been taken with the welfare of the people and the welfare of the alliance parties in mind." 

On what happened behind the screens and how ADMK's Edappadi Palaniswami (EPS) had convinced the TMC to forgo its interest from the seat, our sources have said that EPS has used the prospect of ailing coffers of TMC. EPS has told Vasan that ADMK is ready to award the seat to TMC again but asked Vasan to completely incur the election expenses. Vasan was told by the ADMK that his party should spend Rs 10 crore as the election expense. When Vasan discussed the same with his party leaders, he received a negative response from them as they didn't accept to incur the cost. 

The TMC party leaders in Erode have told the party leadership to take care of the expenses. However, owing to TMC's weakening financial pipeline, Vasan decided to give up the seat to ADMK after which he issued an official statement. By securing the support from TMC, ADMK's EPS is all set to announce the party's candidate to showcase his leadership in the party to the BJP and to his immediate rival O Panneerselvam (OPS) with whom he is locking horns to take over the party.

Announcing that ADMK will directly contest in the bypoll, EPS had also cordoned off OPS in taking a skewed turn. With the tag as an interim general secretary of ADMK, EPS is planning to take an edge in the legal battle against OPS in winning the party's leadership and symbol. If Election Commission ceases the party's Two leaves symbol, EPS is ready to contest in the new symbol and as the opposition party and with the backing of his community in the Kongu Belt, EPS aims to give a hard fight to the ruling alliance. 

With the backing from his community, EPS's ADMK would secure good number of votes and though ADMK concedes to the second spot, he can use the votes and voices in support of him as the prospect to prove his leadership in the ADMK. If OPS comes against EPS and fields a candidate against the latter, it's less likely that OPS can create a good impact, which will plummet his political image and would add more weight to EPS's leadership. As EPS is going ahead with his plan, OPS has called his supportive district secretaries for a meeting on January 23.

By announcing that ADMK would contest in the Erode East bypoll, EPS has also put an end to BJP state president Annamalai's claim that BJP would contest in the bypoll. When it came to Erode East bypoll, the sources say that there were no direct meetings between the ADMK and BJP despite being in an alliance and ADMK went on to announce its contest, two days after the Election Commission unveiled the election schedule. 

Our sources also say that the central BJP leadership didn't entertain Annamalai's idea of contesting independently as for the 2024 Lok Sabha polls, the saffron party needs the support of ADMK in the state. Earlier, it was reported that if Annamalai's claim was backed by the central BJP, OPS was in a state of mind to support Annamalai from behind the screens to oppose EPS. But, as nothing has taken off in favor of OPS so far, the whirlwind in ADMK would get intense after the voters' verdict. While the DMK has awarded the seat to the Congress party again, the trilogy of political friction of EPS with OPS and Annamalai is becoming palpable each day.