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EPS, OPS field candidates for Erode East bypoll: TN BJP confused on support

Chennai, Feb 2 (IANS) With both Edappadi K. Palaniswami (EPS) and O. Panneerselvam (OPS)-led factions of the AIADMK announcing K.S. Thenarasu and B. Senthilmurugan as their respective candidates for the February 27 Erode East bypoll, the Tamil Nadu unit of the BJP is confused on the support.

While BJP state president K. Annamalai was not forthcoming when asked for the support to be extended to the candidates, sources in the BJP told IANS that the party is in confusion.

The BJP has, however, announced that it is not likely to contest in the elections and would extend support to the candidate put up by the AIADMK. The BJP state president also said that Thenarassu is a senior leader of the AIADMK with grassroots connections.

However, senior leaders in the party said that Annamalai cannot take a decision on his own regarding this as the party leadership does not want to antagonise the OPS faction of the party which has the backing of the powerful Thevar community.

The saffron party is aiming for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections and wants to grab a few seats from the state and will not upset the equations with both EPS and OPS.

Another difficulty is the possibility of the ‘Two Leaves’ symbol of the AIADMK being freezed by the Election Commission of India (EC) which will depose before the Supreme Court on Friday regarding this.

It may be noted that even though OPS, according to EPS and his associates, stands expelled from the AIADMK, his name still figures as the state coordinator of the party in the Election Commission of India records.

OPS has also told media persons that he would not be instrumental in the AIADMK losing out on the ‘Two Leaves’ symbol and said that he was willing to sign in the A and B forms seeking the symbol if EPS asks him.

Taking all these factors into consideration and with a powerful Thevar vote bank in mind, the national leadership of the BJP is not keen to upset the relationship with OPS as he can effect a swing for the BJP in southern Tamil Nadu.

In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the AIADMK, and BJP combined lost in all seats of Tamil Nadu except one which was the Theni seat. The MP from Theni is O.P. Raveendranath who is the son of OPS. This shows the clout he has in his belt and hence BJP will think twice to align with the EPS faction.

In the days to come it would be interesting to see how Annamalai steers the BJP in the confusion over the Erode East bypoll.