After a series of twists and turns, senior Congress leader EVKS Elangovan has agreed to contest the Erode East Assembly election scheduled for 27 February.
Following the sudden demise of his son and incumbent MLA Thirumahan Everaa, Elangovan had sought the seat for his younger son.
But thanks to persistent efforts by leaders of the Congress and its alliance partner, the DMK, the veteran Congress leader finally agreed to step into the ring.
Thirumahan Everaa, Elangovan’s eldest son, died in his sleep on 4 January after a cardiac arrest.
On 18 January, the Election Commission of India (ECI) announced the byelection for Erode East — which was announced vacant following the death of Everaa — and said it would be held on 27 February.
The day after the election was announced, Congress state unit president KS Alagiri met DMK President MK Stalin and conveyed his party’s desire to contest the seat. He also met other alliance leaders and sought their support.
Batting for his son
Meanwhile, EVKS Elangovan had initially sought the ticket for one of his family members — either his daughter-in-law (Everaa’s wife) Poornima, or his younger son Sanjay Sampath.
With Poornima expressing her unwillingness to contest, Elangovan decided on son Sanjay and spoke to AICC Tamil Nadu in-charge Dinesh Gundu Rao in this regard.
In the meantime, Congress state unit president KS Alagiri pressed Elangovan to contest the byelection, rather than enter his son in the race. But Elangovan declined the offer.
Sources in the Erode district Congress unit said that Elangovan was keen on contesting the upcoming parliamentary elections and that was the reason he was not interested in the Assembly byelection.
Related: Erode East byelection: OPS says he will field a candidate
On 21 January, Elangovan told reporters that he would not contest the election and had decided to make way for the next generation. He also said that he had sought the ticket for his younger son.
On 22 January, Dinesh Gundu Rao arrived in Chennai, and a high-level meeting of Tamil Nadu Congress leaders, including Elangovan, KV Thangabalu, and Su Thirunavukkarasar, was held in Sathyamoorthy Bhavan to decide on the candidate to contest the by-election.
At the meeting, Sanjay Sampath even gave a formal representation to Gundu Rao, and it was more or less decided that he would be the Congress candidate in Erode East.
MK Stalin’s intervention
Earlier, when Elangovan’s decision not to contest the byelection was conveyed to DMK chief and Chief Minister MK Stalin, who heads the alliance, he is said to pointed to intelligence reports which indicated that Elangovan had a better chance of winning the bypoll.
Stalin noted that if AIADMK’s heavyweights KV Ramalingam or KS Thennarasu decided to contest on behalf of their party, Elangovan would be the right choice to take them on.
Stalin conveyed his thoughts to Congress state unit president Alagiri, who, subsequently, informed Congress leaders in Delhi of the chief minister’s concerns.
Accepting Stalin’s contention, the Congress high command then spoke to Elangovan and insisted he contest the by-election.
The same evening, (22 January) Chief Minister Stalin too went to Elangovan’s house in Chennai and urged him to contest the byelection.
It was after his meeting with the DMK president that Elangovan finally agreed to contest the election.
“Accommodating Elangovan’s pitch to give the ticket to his younger son Sanjay Sampath was not feasible. There are cadres who have worked for the party actively and are keen on contesting. It is a different matter if Elangovan himself contested, given his influence and seniority. With Elangovan as the candidate, our alliance partner DMK too is very confident of victory. It is an important seat given how AIADMK is influential in the belt,” Gundu Rao told South First.
Related: Tamil Maanila Congress gives up Erode East constituency for AIADMK
Elangovan is willing
The next day, Sunday, the Congress high command announced Elangovan as the candidate for Erode East constituency.
Speaking to South First, Elangovan said, “It is the decision of the Congress high command and the wish of the DMK and other alliance parties that I contest. I will defeat the opposition by a huge margin.”
He also said that he expects the BJP to contest against him, instead of the AIADMK, considering the confusion in the party as it is split into four factions.
It is only the second time that Elangovan — the son of Dravidian stalwart EVK Sampath — is contesting in Assembly elections; and it is the first time that he is contesting in his own constituency.
In 1985, Elangovan won from the Gobichettipalayam constituency and became an MLA.
Elangovan also served as a minister of state and as the Union minister of textiles.
In the 2019 Lok sabha election, Elangovan lost to OP Ravindranath Kumar of the AIADMK, the son of O Panneerselvam, in Theni.