The Erode East Assembly by-poll suddenly turned the spotlight on BJP with the AIADMK factions led by K Palaniswami and O Panneerselvam rushing to Kamalalayam - BJP State headquarters here - seeking the saffron party's support for their respective parties.
Panneerselvam even went a step further announcing to opt out of the race if BJP decided to contest.
Though the regional parties always called the shots when it came to sharing of seats during elections, this time the divided AIADMK appears to bank on the BJP to gain electoral recognition through the by-election.
"As I had made it clear in the morning. We will contest. But if the national party expresses its desire to nominate its candidate, then the AIADMK will extend moral support to its candidate," Panneerselvam said emerging after a discussion with BJP State president K Annamalai and senior leaders in the party. He insisted that there's no change in his stand announced in the morning.
Former state minister D Jayakumar, accompanied by party seniors, called on the BJP delegation at Kamalalayam and sought support for their candidate. "The talks were cordial and satisfactory," Jayakumar, who represented the dominant Palaniswami faction, said after the brief interaction.
Earlier in the day, AIADMK leader and former chief minister O Panneerselvam, involved in an acrimonious leadership tussle with another former CM K Palaniswami, announced to field his party candidate for the February 27 by-poll in Erode East Assembly constituency.
The PMK, which was part of the AIADMK-led alliance for the 2021 Assembly polls, said it was neither contesting the by-poll nor extending support to anyone else.
This is the first by-election being held in the State after the DMK-led alliance swept the 2021 elections. The by-poll was necessitated following the recent demise of Congress legislator from the constituency, Thirumahan Everaa.
Speaking to reporters here, Panneerselvam said his faction was willing to support the BJP candidate in the by-election if the national party wanted to contest.
Asked if his decision, especially with Palaniswami already making it clear that his dominant faction is keen on seeking electoral fortunes from Erode East segment, could cause confusion among the party members and electorate, as well, Panneerselvam replied "it is he (Palaniswami) who is creating confusion. Ask him."
He claimed that the party's Two Leaves symbol was with him as the Election Commission of India still recognised him as Coordinator of AIADMK.
His party would accept any symbol allotted by the ECI in case the party symbol could not be retained, Panneerselvam said in reply to a specific query.
"Its only Palaniswami who has been a stumbling block in rejecting a unification (of factions) and also in staking a claim for the Two Leaves symbol, on which we have complete rights," Panneerselvam told reporters at his Greenways Road residence here.
On the resulting confusion and inability of the party candidates in obtaining the authorisation forms to contest the by-poll, as witnessed in the civic polls, Panneerselvam accused Palaniswami for scuttling the prospects of the party candidates by refusing to sign in the joint declaration.
He was in touch with friendly parties including the BJP and would seek their support for his party candidate, the former chief minister added.
Meanwhile, the Dr S Ramadoss-led Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) announced staying away from the electoral contest.
A decision to this effect was taken at a high-level meeting held under Ramadoss, which was attended by his son and Rajya Sabha member Anbumani among others.
The party reiterated its stand that by-polls were "unnecessary" and a "waste of public money and time."
Anbumani said, in a party release, it was unanimously decided in the meeting that PMK will neither contest the by-poll nor will it support any party.