Making his electoral debut in Ramanathapuram Lok Sabha constituency, Navas Kani, nominee of Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), an ally of the DMK, scored an impressive lead of 98,247 votes at the end of the 18th round of counting on Thursday.
Mr. Kani polled 3,57,224 votes, while his nearest rival, BJP State vice-president and former AIADMK Minister Nainar Nagendran, polled 2,58,977. With a few more rounds of counting left, Mr. Kani is all set to win and wrest the seat from AIADMK if the existing trend is an indication.
Mr. Kani, managing director of ST Courier, emerged as the dark horse and gave a tough fight to Mr. Nagendran. After establishing slender margins in the initial rounds, he made steady progress to establish a decisive margin at the end of the 18th round.
Joining hands with the BJP, the AIADMK, led by local Minister M. Manikandan, campaigned vigorously for Mr. Nagendran, who hailed from neighbouring Tirunelveli district. Prime Minister Narendra Modi too campaigned for him, addressing an election rally here on April 13.
Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam (AMMK) nominee V.D.N. Anand put up an impressive performance, polling 1,05,493 votes. He appeared to have played spoilsport for Mr. Nagendran if the victory margin at the end of 18th round was an indication.
Son of former AIADMK Minister Va Thu Natarajan, the candidate was a nightmare for the AIADMK-backed BJP candidate right from the beginning. Naam Tamizhar Katchi candidate T. Bhuvaneswari polled 34,739 votes and Makkal Needhi Maiam nominee Vijay Baskar trailed at the fourth place, polling 11,227 votes.
The ruling AIADMK is set to retain the Paramakudi Assembly seat in the by-election caused by the disqualification of incumbent MLA S. Muthiah, who sided with rebel leader T.T.V. Dhinakaran.
AIADMK candidate Sathan Prabakar polled 45,330 votes and established a lead of 6,965 votes at the end of 12 rounds of counting. His nearest rival, DMK candidate S. Sampathkumar, polled 38,365 votes. Dr. Muthiah was trailing at the third place with 4,845 votes.
Glitches in few electronic voting machines delayed the counting by an hour before they were set right.