May 23 will be Tamil Nadu CM Edappadi Palaniswami's date with destiny
In Tamil Nadu, May 23 holds the key to the future of Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami's government. The India Today-Axis-My-India Exit Poll predicts it's precarious.
In the present house of 213 sitting MLAs, excluding the 22 vacant seats that went to bypolls recently, the AIADMK is surviving on a thin majority of 113, barring the speaker.
Once the results for the byelections are announced on Thursday, the ruling party will need five more MLAs for a majority in the full house of 234. In the event of a tie, the speaker can also vote.
The India Today-Axis My India Exit Poll on the byelections finds out that it's no cakewalk for the EPS government.
The rival DMK looks set to sweep 14 of the 22 seats.
The governing party may win three seats, which will take its tally to 116, the data show, still two short of the half-way mark.
But the intense three-cornered contest between the AIADMK, the DMK and the AMMK floated by TTV Dinakaran guarantees no breeze. A minor swing of votes can change the results drastically.
In 2016, the AIADMK won 21 and the DMK one of the 22 seats, most of which fell vacant after the disqualification of legislators defecting to the Dhinakaran faction.
With the exit poll giving it an edge, the DMK is upbeat about its prospects.
"We are confident that we will sweep the Lok Sabha and assembly polls. On May 23, the anti-people government headed by Palaniswami will be defeated. The results will reflect the anger against the government and its anti-people policies," A Saravanan, a DMK spokesperson, said.
On its part, the AIADMK managed to secure unconditional support of its allies -- the BJP, the PMK and the DMDK -- for the bypolls. But it is difficult to predict if the alliance arithmetic will result in successful vote transfer.
Given the performance of the BJP, the PMK and the DMDK in the 2016 assembly elections, the allies can tilt the scales in favour of the AIADMK on at least seven seats.
But the DMK is hoping to cash in on the split in the AIADMK vote base. The party hopes its Gram Sabha meetings in 12,000 panchayats falling under 39 Lok Sabha and 22 assembly constituencies for a month-and-a-half will stand it in good stead.
As the AIADMK fights against anti-incumbency, it's a do-or-die battle for Dinakaran and DMK leader MK Stalin to prove their political relevance.
A bypoll victory will be a political reckoning for Dinakaran trying to wrest the AIADMK from the present leadership.