Chennai's RK Nagar is making headlines again. The bypoll to the seat, which fell vacant upon J Jayalalithaa's death, is scheduled for April 12.
With that, Tamil Nadu is all set to witness one of the most bitterly contested bypolls in the state even as parties and candidates jostle to prove their mettle.
The AIADMK has seen dramatic changes within the party following Amma's demise on December 5, 2016. While her death was the first big blow to the party, the entry of her "closest" friend and "sister" VK Sasikala led to unprecedented chaos and power play as two factions openly fought to take control of the AIADMK.
The rise and fall of AIADMK
Till the time she was alive, Jayalalithaa exercised complete control over the AIADMK and enjoyed the status of a demigod in the party. There was absolutely no scope for anybody to aspire to be her successor. But soon after her death, things changed drastically.
Initially, there was a smooth power shift as all senior party leaders readily accepted VK Sasikala, also called Chinamma, as the next party leader, and O Panneerselvam (OPS), Jaya's trusted lieutenant, as the CM of the state. The transition was so quick and smooth that it left many wondering, but the suspense ended soon.
|Fight for J. Jayalalithaa's legacy in RK Nagar.|
Within days, OPS resigned from his post and announced Sasikala as the CM candidate.
More drama unfolded as OPS suddenly decided to revolt, saying he was being forced to quit to make way for Sasikala. He even said a judicial inquiry will be ordered into Jayalalithaa's "mysterious" death. Panneerselvam became an overnight sensation — the leader that many were looking to support.
While his transition from a "spineless" man to a braveheart was quick, Sasikala became a "villain" in the story. Her conviction in the disproportionate assets case added more twist to the story.
Before going to prison, she quickly declared the next face for the CM's post — Edappadi K Palanisamy— and also a deputy general secretary — TTV Dinakaran, who was the Lok Sabha MP from Periyakulam constituency in 1999 and a member of Rajya Sabha from 2004 to 2010.
For many AIADMK supporters, this came as a shocker. Not only did Amma expel TTV Dinakaran and other members from Sasikala's extended family in 2011, this sudden return of the family into the party was not seen in good light, giving some more brownie points to OPS and his team.
With the AIADMK split in two factions — each claiming to be the real party — the third person seen as the next big claimant to Jaya's legacy is Deepa Jayakumar, Amma's niece and lookalike.
Her bloodline and similar looks immediately won her some support base. After she announced the formation of her forum, MGR Amma Deepa Peravai (MADP), the OPS faction was more than happy to show their support to her.
The big battle for RK Nagar
It is not just the AIADMK that is eyeing the RK Nagar seat. The acting president of the DMK, MK Stalin, who stole the show during the floor test in the Tamil Nadu (to find out if Panneerselvam or Sasikala had the majority) has the best chance to prove his mettle and his party's acceptance among people.
While Dinakaran has been announced as the official candidate of the Sasikala faction of AIADMK, the DMK has named N Maruthu Ganesh (party secretary), as its candidate for the RK Nagar seat.
Dinakaran is trying hard to milk the "Amma sentiment". After his candidature was announced, he tweeted appealing to the people and cadres to help him win and pay their tributes to Amma. Incidentally, he too is facing trial along with Sasikala in three Foreign Exchange Regulations Act (FERA)violation cases.
Meanwhile, Deepa Jayakumar, as announced earlier, too has thrown her hat in the ring. Vijayakanth-led DMDK, after its disastrous performance in the 2016 Assembly elections, has fielded the party’s North Chennai district secretary P Mathivanan.
With so many people trying to prove their mettle, Chennai is in for some more red-hot political action.
Also read: After taking over Poes Garden and AIADMK, Sasikala family now eyes Jayalalithaa's constituency