In a nail biting finish, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam's D M Kathir Anand on Friday won the Vellore Lok Sabha segment defeating his nearest rival, All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam's ally A C Shanmugam, by a narrow margin of 8,141 votes.
The result came as a setback to the AIADMK which was hoping to retain the seat and prove a point after it faced a near rout in the April Lok Sabha elections with the DMK-led alliance winning 37 of the 38 constituencies then.
The DMK candidate, son of party Treasurer Duraimurugan, bagged 4,85,340 votes and garnered a 47.3 per cent vote share as it wrested the Vellore seat from its arch rival AIADMK which had won it in 2014.
Shanmugam of Puthiya Needhi Katchi, who contested on the AIADMK's Two-Leaves symbol, polled 4,77,199 votes and got 46.51 per cent share, the Election Commission announced.
Thanking the voters, DMK chief M K Stalin said the victory was "exceptional and unparallelled."
Since the election was like a bypoll, trouncing a ruling party candidate meant a "huge victory," he told reporters.
Also, the win has cemented DMK's position as the third biggest party in the Lok Sabha, he said adding his party's victory could have been "delayed," but cannot be "prevented."
He was apparently referring to the earlier cancellation of the election in Vellore in April when the rest of the 38 seats in Tamil Nadu went for polls. The EC had then cancelled the poll in Vellore following seizure of huge cash.
The election was subsequently held on August 5 and the counting of votes was taken up on Friday morning.
The lead kept changing in initial rounds but the DMK candidate later narrowed the gap steadily and then forged ahead, holding on to the little over 8,000 vote difference
till the end.
Reflecting the sea-saw battle, the AIADMK cadres brimmed with enthusiasm initially but once the trend changed it was the turn of DMK workers to break into celebrations here and at the party headquarters Anna Arivalayam in Chennai.
Distribution of sweets, bursting of crackers and dancing marked the DMK's victory here and in other parts of Tamil Nadu.
Carrying party flags, DMK workers lined up at the residence of Stalin in Chennai to celebrate the victory.
District Election Officer and Collector A Shanmuga Sundaram gave away the certificate of election to Kathir Anand following completion of counting and tallying votes recorded in five Voter-Verifiable Paper Audit Trail devices for each of the six assembly segments under the Lok Sabha seat.
With this win, the DMK's tally in Lok Sabha has now gone up to 24 and that of the alliance led by it to 38.
According to the provisional data provided by the EC, the AIADMK polled more votes in Anaicut, K V Kuppam and Gudiyattam assembly segments while DMK was ahead in Vellore, Vaniyambadi and Ambur, which have a sizable Muslim population.
The AIADMK which strained every nerve to retain the seat and recover the lost political ground had to be content with giving a tough fight.
Chief Minister K Palaniswami and Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam had campaigned in the constituency and had accused the DMK of having swept the Lok Sabha polls by giving false promises.
The margin of victory in Vellore seat is however the lowest for the DMK compared to the April polls though the party's ally Thol Thirumavalavan of Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi had scraped home by just 3,219 votes in Chidambaram seat then.
"We consider the win as people's confidence on Stalin," Duraimurugan said. Tamil Nadu Congress Committee chief, K S Alagiri said DMK's victory was expected.
AIADMK senior leader and Minister D Jayakumar said "only we have won," and alleged the DMK emerged victorious through "foul means". He pointed out that the margin was only about 8,000 votes.
In the end, Deepalakshmi of Naam Tamilar Katchi, who got 26,995 votes and came third, and NOTA (none of the above) accounting for 9,417 votes, appeared to have poured cold water on the AIADMK's chances.
Though the result was a disappointment for AIADMK, party cadres were of the view that the narrow margin further validated the leadership of Palaniswami and Panneerselvam after the win in nine of the 22 assembly seats in crucial bypolls in April that ensured stability of the government.
Over 300 polling officials conducted the counting exercise amidst a three-tier security which included about 1,000 state police and paramilitary personnel and monitoring through 70 CCTV cameras.
In the election held on August 5, a polling percentage of 71.51 was recorded in the constituency which has 14.32 lakh voters.