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In AIADMK's boycott of today's Vikravandi bypoll, a message to former ally PMK

AIADMK has opted out of contest in stronghold in apparent olive branch to NDA ally PMK, say observers. But PMK asserts that coalition is intact & it’ll pick allies closer to state polls.

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Chennai: The bypoll for Tamil Nadu’s Vikravandi assembly seat Wednesday has raised curiosity in the state’s political circles — not because of its likely result but because the principal opposition party, the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), has decided to stay away from the contest.

The fight for the seat is primarily between the ruling Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and the Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK), a member of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in power at the Centre. The Naam Tamilar Katchi (NTK), which drew a blank in the previous state elections, is also trying its luck but the AIADMK has shunned the poll, maintaining that it doesn’t contest byelections — a strategy followed by late party supremo J. Jayalalithaa.

Not many buy the argument, though. The AIADMK had contested the Erode East assembly bypoll only last year.

Behind the decision not to contest in Vikravandi is the AIADMK’s gameplan for 2026, according to politicians and analysts. The strategy to sit out the byelection is being seen as the party’s olive branch to the PMK about two years ahead of the next Tamil Nadu assembly polls.

“Though at the start of the (Vikravandi) election it looked like (AIADMK general secretary) Edappadi Palaniswami wanted to avoid yet another defeat, the scene has changed over time with the AIADMK on the sidelines of state politics,” political analyst N. Sathiya Moorthy told INDIANEXPOSE.

The Vikravandi constituency is dominated by the Vanniyar caste (categorised as a Most Backward Class in Tamil Nadu). After much deliberation, the NDA had declared that the PMK, a Vanniyar-dominated party, would contest the bypoll.

“This has made the AIADMK’s move to boycott the election significant. The AIADMK has sent a direct signal to the PMK, inviting the party into an alliance for the 2026 assembly election,” said Arun Kumar, a political researcher and academic.

A senior AIADMK functionary who did not wish to be named said it was the party’s strategy in the long run to turn the PMK into an ally.

“We don’t know whether it will reflect soon after the bypoll. But we are confident that it (alliance) will work out during the 2026 assembly election. The present tenure of (PMK chief) Anbumani Ramadoss as Rajya Sabha member was given by the AIADMK and it will be over by 2026. The BJP may not be able to promise the Rajya Sabha MP post since they could not even make their own state president a Rajya Sabha MP,” the functionary said.

According to PMK leaders, however, the party’s alliance with the NDA is intact and the party has enough time to decide on allies before the next state election.

“Whether the AIADMK votes will transfer to us or not will be known only after the bypoll results. Even otherwise, we are stronger in this constituency compared to the AIADMK. This election is against the DMK, and so we are now looking at winning and not concerned about the 2026 assembly election, since we have enough time to decide on it,” G.K. Mani, honorary president of the PMK, told INDIANEXPOSE.

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Twin messages in AIADMK strategy

The Vikravandi bypoll was necessitated after the death of DMK MLA N. Pugazhenthi on 6 April. While the DMK nominated its agricultural labourers' wing secretary Anniyur Siva as candidate, the NTK fielded Abinaya, who was earlier the Lok Sabha candidate for the Dharmapuri constituency.

Soon after, Palaniswami announced that his party would boycott the election in accordance with the principle followed by Jayalalithaa.

Vikravandi constituency is part of Viluppuram district in the northern part of Tamil Nadu.

“The present AIADMK leadership enjoys considerable support among the Vanniyars in the northern districts. By giving up such a constituency to the PMK, without contesting the election, it looks like it’s inviting the PMK for the 2026 election,” Arun Kumar told INDIANEXPOSE.

The political analysts recalled how a short and casual greeting by Jayalalithaa to Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam founder Vaiko during a padayatra had led to the breakup of the party’s alliance with the DMK just months before the 2006 Tamil Nadu state election. The MDMK had proceeded to contest 35 seats in alliance with the AIADMK.

“Letting the PMK get hold of its (AIADMK’s) base in one of its strongholds is a kind of direct message for them to decide and take a call,” said Sathiya Moorthy.

The BJP factor

Sathiya Moorthy said that Palaniswami had sent another message in the process as well.

“He would not be in an alliance with the BJP if they continue to have Annamalai as state leader. Palaniswami hits out at Annamalai strongly, but not against the BJP or its policies. The AIADMK just maintains that the national party (BJP) would be of no use for the state parties, in order to keep the competition binary between the DMK and AIADMK,” Sathiya Moorthy said.

Arun Kumar also pointed out that the AIADMK leader had been striving hard to make the contest bipolar in Tamil Nadu.

“The two Dravidian parties never wanted a third front (in Tamil Nadu). By boycotting the election and hoping to take away the PMK in the 2026 assembly election, Palaniswami thinks he can weaken the BJP-led third front and become the stronger opposition party in the state,” Arun Kumar said.

In this year’s Lok Sabha election in Tamil Nadu, the vote percentage difference between the ruling DMK and AIADMK was huge. While the DMK secured 47 percent of votes in the seats it contested, the AIADMK secured only 22.6 percent vote share in the seats it contested.

“Even in the constituencies where the DMK and AIADMK competed directly, the vote difference was higher than usual. On the other hand, the difference between the runner-up and the third party, BJP, was much less. This is because of the much stronger state alliances that BJP had formed,” said Arun Kumar.

(Edited by Nida Fatima Siddiqui)

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