Defection is nothing new in Tamil Nadu politics, often giving a moral boost to the ruling party and a jolt to the Opposition.

The phenomenon of a handful of Opposition members breaking ranks with their leadership and gravitating towards the ruling party is back in focus after four Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam legislators appeared to be leaning towards the AIADMK.

In the past, very few defectors have benefited from their decision to join the AIADMK. On the other hand, those who joined the DMK reaped huge benefits, much to the discontent of veterans in the party.

After 2001, the decision of three Tamil Maanila Congress (TMC) MLAs to join the AIADMK was seen as a political coup by Chief Minister Jayalalithaa.

D. Kumaradoss, R. Eswaran and M.A. Hakkem, elected as MLAs of the TMC, launched by the late G.K. Moopanar, first decided to function as a separate group in the Assembly after their expulsion from the party. They were against the merger of the TMC with the Congress and launched the Tamil Maanila Kamaraj Congress. Later, they merged their party with the AIADMK. However, they did not get AIADMK tickets in the 2006 Assembly elections.

In the case of DMK, defectors were duly rewarded. S. Ragupathy, who was a minister in Ms Jayalalithaa’s Cabinet between 1991-96, joined the DMK and was nominated as party candidate from Pudukottai Lok Sabha constituency in 2004. He won the seat and found a place in the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government as a minister of state.

Union Minister of State S. Jagatharatchagan is a case in point. He was with former minister R.M. Veerappan in his MGR Kazhagam and launched his own outfit, which he later converted into a political party and merged it with the DMK. Former AIADMK minister and MP T.M. Selvaganapathy too was rewarded in the DMK. He was nominated to the Rajya Sabha. Another AIADMK veteran S. Muthusamy and CPI(M) MLA C. Govindasamy were also given their preferred Assembly constituencies in the DMK in the 2011 Assembly polls. But both lost.

In the previous DMK regime, Anita R. Radhakrishnan (AIADMK) and Cumbum N. Eramakrishnan (MDMK) quit their Assembly seats to join the DMK and were renominated in the resulting by-polls. Both won. P. K. Sekar Babu, once an ardent Jayalalithaa supporter, went to the DMK and got a seat in the 2011 polls.

As far as the AIADMK is concerned, beneficiaries are few and far between. Prominent among them is V. Maitreyan, who came to the party from the BJP, and enjoys Ms. Jayalalithaa’s confidence and is a Rajya Sabha member. Other ‘outsiders’ who were fielded by the AIADMK in elections are Dalit Ezhilmalai, once prominent PMK leader and Union Minister, and P. Vetrivel, a former Congressman, now an AIADMK MLA.