It was less of an election result but more of the England vs New Zealand World Cup final. It was pulsating all through and the result was unpredictable till the last round as the leads kept swinging back and forth.

Eventually, the DMK scraped to victory in the Vellore constituency today, where the election had earlier been cancelled after money was seized from places known to be close to the DMK candidate.

DMK's Kathir Anand defeated New Justice Party's AC Shanmugam, who was standing on the AIADMK's two leaves symbol, by 8141 votes --- a margin that should clearly worry the DMK.

The good news for the DMK though is that it has shown that its stellar performance in the general election (it annexed 37 out of 38 seats on offer in the State) was no flash in the pan.

But in the general election, in almost all constituencies, its win margin was around or over 1.5 lakh votes. From that high to this win-by-a-whisker, it is a come down for the DMK. Especially in a Parliamentary constituency that has considerable Muslim population (around 3 lakhs), the DMK’s numbers are a major shock.

AC Shanmugam is an old war horse and in the last general election (2014), contesting on the BJP symbol, still managed to push the IUML candidate to the third spot. He has political pedigree. Still, the margin will not let the DMK leaders sleep peacefully.  The party’s victory parcel has come tied with alarm bells.

Till last week, it was said that the DMK can surely hope to romp home in the Assembly elections (2021). But now those words carry a ring of hollowness as the DMK seems to be on ground that seems to be slipping from under its feet.

But what has changed since April 18 (general election date) and Aug 5 (Vellore election date)? Why has the DMK's margin shrunk dramatically?

Well, for one, the DMK did not endear itself to the minorities with its duplicity on the passage of the NIA Bill in the Lok Sabha. The DMK spoke vehemently against the Bill, but when it came to voting, the DMK (along with the Congress and the TMC which too had opposed the Bill) quietly voted in favour of it.

Also, things within the DMK are not encouraging for cadres of the party. Post the general elections, MK Stalin, the party president, anointed his son Udhayanidhi Stalin as the party's youth wing president --- a post that is the warm-up bench for the future leader of the party.

Stalin doesn't have the charisma or appeal to sell such family-centric moves among his party people. Karunanidhi possessed the cunning to get away after such efforts when he was the president. Stalin lacks that inner conviction and hence his moves seem unconvincing.

And within the party itself there is plenty of friction. While Stalin is eager to push his son Udhayanidhi up the ladder, he is simultaneously trying to keep his half-sister Kanimozhi in check. Kanimozhi, the Tuticorin MP now, was not allowed to campaign in Vellore even though her name was announced in the party organ Murasoli.

The word out is that Stalin at the last moment decided that she need not campaign in Vellore. It did not stop there. Two days ago, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee unveiled the statue of Karunanidhi in Chennai. At that function, Kanimozhi was not given any space in the dais. When she merely escorted Mamata to the stage, a senior DMK leader quickly sidled up to Kanimozhi and reportedly told her to get down from the stage. The DMK leader merely carried the words of Stalin to Kanimozhi's ears.

Kanimozhi is understandably miffed with the latest developments, sources say. But she is keeping quiet in the larger interests of the party and the family.

With family pressure on one side, and also political pulls on the other (the Congress, the DMK's ally, is in a war of words with Vaiko, another partner in the same alliance block), Stalin has his task cut out.

The Vellore election result is mostly bitter-sweet for him and the DMK.

And the TN Assembly election which seemed an open and shut case for the DMK now doesn’t look all that rosy.