Campaigning for the high-stakes December 21 bypoll to the RK Nagar assembly seat here will end this evening and the outcome of the hustings is likely to be seen as a report card of the 17-month old AIADMK government. The political campaign will end by 5 pm and the Election Commission has made it clear that there will be no related activities afterwards as per rules. The outcome of the by-election could serve as a report card of the ruling AIADMK which faced turbulence after late chief minister J Jayalalithaa’s death. The campaign witnessed the top leaders of various parties–Chief Minister K Palaniswami and his deputy O Panneerselvam of the AIADMK, DMK leader MK Stalin and sidelined AIADMK leader TTV Dhinakaran–reaching out to voters with hectic campaign schedules. All parties are keen to make a mark in the election which has become a battle of pride as Jayalalithaa represented the constituency earlier. Her death in December last year necessitated the bypoll. The campaign also saw old rivals Stalin and MDMK founder Vaiko share stage for the first time in many years. The opposition is putting up a united show in a bid to to snatch victory in this city segment.
Many opposition parties, including the Congress, the VCK and the Left have backed DMK candidate N Maruthuganesh. Dhinakaran, who fell out of favour with Palaniswami and also lost the battle for party’s ‘Two Leaves’ symbol to the latter, is fighting as an independent and has expressed confidence that he can spring a surprise against the AIADMK’s E Madhusudhanan as well as the DMK. With 59 candidates in fray, the bypoll is virtually confined to old warhorse Madhusudhanan, DMK’s greenhorn Maruthuganesh and Dhinakaran. Polling will be held on December 21 while the votes will be taken up for counting on December 24.