The grand old party may feel elated over retaining the Erode East Assembly constituency to re-establish its hold but in a charged-up political atmosphere, the Congress may not find the February 27 by-poll a cakewalk.
This will be the first bypoll in Tamil Nadu after the DMK-led alliance won the 2021 Assembly polls.
Former Congress leader and Tamil Maanila Congress (TMC) founder G K Vasan, whose party candidate was a runner-up in the 2021 Assembly election from this constituency, withdrew from the race in support of the AIADMK putting the BJP in a quandary either to support ally AIADMK or go solo.
AIADMK interim general secretary K Palaniswami, in a deft move, ensured the support of Vasan on Thursday and on the same day communicated to the BJP to extend support for his party candidate in the by-election.
The BJP, which won from Modakkurichi Assembly constituency, which also falls in Erode Lok Sabha seat, is keen on prospering its electoral fortunes at the hustings and also in upsetting the Congress calculation of nominating a strongman replacing Thirumahan Everaa whose sudden demise recently necessitated the by-election.
The saffron party has little option but to support the AIADMK or contest alone on its own strength.
Immediately after the election schedule was announced on January 18, the BJP even nominated a poll panel to take up election-related work in the constituency. Indicating that the party desires to contest from Erode East, a senior leader said "our party member C Saraswathi won from Modakkurichi and this showed the tremendous work our party had carried out to defeat the DMK combine."
"We may explore several options, some including the technicalities being faced by the AIADMK like the issuance of forms authorising the candidate to contest in the poll," he said.
For instance, the AIADMK candidate could contest on the Lotus symbol of the BJP, in case the party failed to secure the Two Leaves symbol on account of the tussle between Palaniswami and O Panneerselvam (both former Chief Ministers).
The same symbol cannot be allotted to two candidates nominated by the two AIADMK leaders, he opined.
"Nevertheless, its our party high command which decides on the alliance," the BJP senior told PTI.
Admitting that both AIADMK interim general secretary Palaniswami and TMC leader Vasan spoke to him over phone about the by-elections, BJP state chief K Annamalai said "I have communicated their views to our party high command. I will make an announcement in this regard after I get a reply from New Delhi."
The AIADMK leaders would meet a team of senior leaders of his party on Saturday to take the discussions forward, Annamalai added.
As in the BJP where the name of A P Muruganandam, party's state general secretary is doing the rounds, the name of Thirumahan's father and former Union Minister E V K S Elangovan is also being widely speculated to be nominated from the constituency.
Panneerselvam is unlikely to accept Palaniswami's candidate. He is set to announce his stance.
The Congress is expected to announce its candidate in a day or two.
The TMC had contested in alliance with the AIADMK during the 2021 Assembly elections.
Another player in Tamil Nadu politics viz. the Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) is unlikely to contest this time, said a source.
'Captain' Vijayakanth led Desiya Morpokku Dravida Kazhagam (DMDK) and actor-politician Kamal Haasan's Makkal Needhi Maiam are yet to announce their stand.
The Erode East constituency has been a mixed bag of luck returning the Congress (Thirumahan Everaa) in 2021, AIADMK (Thennarasu K S) in 2016, and DMDK (V C Chandhirakumar) in 2011. The constituency was formed in 2008 by bifurcating the Erode Assembly constituency.
The verdict in Tamil Nadu's by elections have always favoured the ruling dispensation though there have been certain exceptions such as the R K Nagar Assembly constituency in Chennai.
Citing his spectacular victory in the by-poll in 2017, in which AIADMK heavyweight E Madhusudhanan was trounced, T T V Dhinakaran, general secretary of Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam (AMMK) said something out of the ordinary may happen in the poll-bound constituency in the State.
"No one expected that I would defeat the AIADMK then," he said and indicated his willingness to throw his hat in the ring.
The DMK, without any fanfare, conducted the bye-election work by verifying the electoral list and booth list. Already they formed booth committees in every ward. The DMK functionaries started canvassing for votes for their ally in some wards in Erode City Municipal Corporation area.
S Muthusamy, State Urban Development and Housing Minister said the DMK-Congress alliance candidate will be selected by Chief Minister M K Stalin, who is the president of the DMK party after holding talks with Congress leaders. They will work hard for the victory of the announced candidate.
The BJP has formed a 14-member election committee led by the Erode BJP South District President V C Vedandham. Dr C Saraswathy, Modakkurichi legislator, is among the members of the committee.
The AIADMK is hopeful of getting their Two Leaves symbol from the election commission after the Supreme Court verdict.
Congress members in Erode district have appealed to Elangovan to contest from the constituency.
With the model code of conduct coming into force, Erode collector H Krishnanunni urged all license holders of guns, revolvers and pistols to deposit them at their respective area police stations immediately and obtain proper acknowledgment for the same.
The filing of nominations for the constituency will start on January 31 and the last date is February 7. The Erode Corporation Commissioner N Sivakumar is the Returning officer.