Finally, ADMK's EPS faction announces its candidate for Erode East bypoll: What about OPS?

The scorching race in the Erode East bypoll in Tamil Nadu has taken a sparking course after ADMK's Edappadi Palaniswami's (EPS) faction has announced its candidate on Wednesday - February 1 amid the growing feudatory with the rival camp led by O Panneerselvam (OPS). The political infight between these two leaders have put ADMK in chaos and as they prepare to fight against each other in the bypoll, the ADMK cadres are left in a lurch over the first electoral battle between both the leaders. 

When EPS, who was elected as ADMK's interim general secretary last year, said that his faction will field a candidate, OPS had also announced to contest against EPS, though both the leaders are still crossing swords legally to win the party and the party's 'Two leaves' symbol. In the midst of tight-lipped BJP, the EPS faction has now announced its candidate, when the process for filing the nominations has already begun. 

The Erode East bypoll will be held on February 27 and the results will be declared on March 2. The bypoll was necessitated after the shocking demise of Congress MLA Thirumahan Everaa, who died on January 4 at the age of 46 due to heart attack. The ruling DMK has made its route clear with letting its ally Congress to contest again while the opposition has been trembling with political chaos and friction. 

On Wednesday, the EPS faction has announced former ADMK MLA KS Thennarasu (65) as its candidate in the bypoll. Thennarasu's candidature was announced by former ADMK Minister SP Velumani and the latter had also inaugurated the election working office in the constituency. Earlier, there were speculations that former minister and ADMK's Erode Urban district secretary KP Ramalingam will be picked as the candidate. 

However, the candidacy has finally been conferred to Thennarasu. Though Velumani said that the heavy competition within the party had made a delay in announcing the final candidate, our sources say the opposite, that the ADMK was searching for the candidate. When EPS was mulling to field KP Ramalingam, the latter refused to contest, citing that he is not ready to pump in the expenses for the election. Later, EPS had convinced Thennarasu to contest in the bypoll.

After announcing Thennarasu as the candidate, Velumani had appealed to the gathering to make Thennarasu win at the margin of at least 50,000 votes in the bypoll. Velumani expressed his hope that the party's interim general secretary Edappadi Palaniswami will start his victory count from the Erode East constituency like how ADMK's founder MGR got a victory in the Dindigul bypoll when he launched the party. 

The candidate announcement by the EPS camp poured weight behind the speculations that the EPS faction will contest independently in the bypoll as its ally BJP is yet to divulge its stand in the bypoll. KS Thennarasu was elected as MLA from the Erode assembly constituency in 2001 (before delimitation) and from the Erode (East) constituency in 2011. He again contested from the Erode East in the 2016 polls and won by defeating DMK's VC Chandirakumar at a margin of over 7,000 votes. 

Thennarasu is Erode Urban district secretary of MGR Mandram. As he is all set to file his nomination papers, the rival camp led by OPS, on the other hand, has been pushed to announce its candidate as its Plan B of supporting BJP is less likely to happen as there has been no sight from the saffron party that it will be contesting in the bypoll. As OPS has no community backing in the Erode East bypoll like how EPS has, our sources say that OPS will nominate a candidate from the Kongu community to take on the EPS faction. 

As their legal fight for the party's election symbol is taking new turns, its more likely that both the factions will contest in new electoral symbols. On Tuesday, Tamil Nadu BJP President Annamalai held a meeting with state and district level functionaries to make a final decision over the Erode East bypoll. Participated by the senior leaders, the state leadership said that the party would send its inputs to the national leadership for the final decision. It has been reported that the BJP will announce its decision on Thursday. On the shore of the ruling DMK, its ally Congress has announced that deceased MLA Thirumahan Everaa's father and former Union Minister EVKS Elangovan would be contesting in the Erode East bypoll and he will be filing his nomination papers on February 3.