The by-elections to 18 assembly constituencies will decide if the ruling AIADMK remains in power or not, A Ganesh Nadar reports.
In Tamil Nadu, the by-elections to 18 assembly constituencies have become more important than the Lok Sabha election.
The reason is that the ruling All India Ann Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam has a wafer thin majority in the state assembly and needs to win at least 8 of these 18 bypolls to remain in power.
The Opposition DMK will not get a majority even if it wins all 18 seats.
For that it will need to win 3 more, whenever bye-elections are held to 3 seats whose vacancies were caused by the death of the sitting MLAs there.
In contrast, these 18 bypolls are being held after the disqualification of AIADMK legislators for cross-voting in favour of the party rebel, T T V Dinakaran.
Both the AIADMK and DMK were generous in their seat distribution to allies for the Lok Sabha election, voting for which concluded on Thursday, April 18, but for the 18 bye-elections neither party parted with a single seat, and instead asked their allies to support them.
Of the 18 seats, one seat in the suburb of Chennai, Perambur, also voted on April 18, with the rest of the state.
P Vetrivel, who was elected an AIADMK MLA in May 2016, was disqualified for supporting Dinakaran who created electoral history in Tamil Nadu last year by winning the RK Nagar bye-election, an election caused by J Jayalalithaa's death.
Vetrivel, many say, crafted Dinakaran's astounding victory.
Dinakaran's Amma Makkal Munnetra Katchi is making a determined bid to wrest the 18 assembly constituencies, but neither of the two Dravidian majors are giving in easily.
In Perambur, earlier this month, AMMK supporters were staging a march in two different areas, both groups led by a few men, but the majority of the party workers were women.
Most were carrying the party flag with Jayalalithaa's photograph on it. A few carried a gift box, which is the AMMK symbol.
When Dinakaran was given the gift box as his symbol, twitterati had reacted with 'Someone in the election commission obviously has a sense of humor'.
DMK candidate R V Sekar was campaigning nearby, trying hard to meet the eyes of passers-by for a personal connect. His followers were both in front of and behind him; the smart ones were waiting at the end of the road to give an impression of crowds.
In another part of the constituency a large group of DMK cadres were canvassing for votes. Here again, there were a few men and plenty of women.
One was arguing with her friend, "Why are we being paid only 200 rupees?" "Akka (elder sister)," came the reply, "this is only for evening work. When you come the whole day they will pay us more."
AIADMK candidate R S Rajesh had to mobilise the largest crowds even for a street corner meeting. It was the only way he would stand out from his opponents.
Sporting huge party rings in solid gold and a very prominent moustache, Rajesh waxed eloquent about the achievements of the AIADMK government that succeeded Jayalalithaa.
DMK-AIADMK direct contests in assembly elections often end with slim margins of victory. Some say Dinakaran's fledgling AMMK will play spoiler in these assembly by-elections as he demonstrated in RK Nagar a year ago.