AIADMK supremo Jayalalithaa may be out of action being hospitalised but the ‘Amma’ brand is the centrepiece of the ruling party’s campaign in the November 19 polls to three assembly constituencies in Tamil Nadu. Forced to face the polls with the Chief Minister remaining in hospital for more than a month now, AIADMK is depending on the slew of welfare schemes launched by her to woo the voters of Aravakkurichi, Thanjavur and Thirupparankundram segments as it seeks to maintain its winning streak.
Jayalalithaa, who guided her party to record back-to-back assembly poll victories in the state besides the sweep in 2014 Lok Sabha elections, is being treated at the Apollo Hospital in Chennai since her admission on September 22 last.
In contrast, the principal opposition DMK is targeting the government for being in a “limbo” on several issues including problems faced by Cauvery delta farmers. The filing of nomination by the AIADMK candidates became an issue after Jayalalithaa’s left thumb impression, instead of her signature, was affixed in their poll papers endorsing them as the party’s official nominees.
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A PIL moved in the Madras High Court questioning this was, however, dismissed with the Election Commission submitting that the thumb impression had been attested as per its order. Besides local issues, the recent deaths of two farmers, who had allegedly faced crop failures, in Thiruvarur district, insufficient Cauvery water in the delta region for Samba paddy crop, non-payment of arrears by sugarcane mills to cane growers are being highlighted by the opposition.
Both AIADMK and DMK have deployed their top rung leaders, and senior functionaries drawn from the entire state to campaign in the three constituencies. While Aravakkurichi and Thanjavur are going to polls after the exercise was cancelled during the May assembly elections following alleged corrupt practices, a byelection is being held in Thiruparankundram due to the death of AIDAMK MLA.
With People’s Welfare Front comprising MDMK, CPI, CPI(M), and VCK boycotting the polls, the contest is mainly between AIADMK and DMK though BJP, PMK, and DMDK too are in the fray.
PMK is not contesting in Thirupparankundram as it was not allotted the mango symbol in that Assembly segment. Finance Minister O Panneerselvam, who has been allocated portfolios of Jayalalithaa, his cabinet colleagues, MPs, and MLAs have been campaigning by AIADMK.
Similarly, DMK, whose campaign is led by its Treasurer M K Stalin, too has deployed its key functionaries, MPs and MLAs and involved all its district units in the poll work. AIADMK’s IT wing has embarked on new initiatives for the polls. Motorbikes are mounted with LED screens on the pillion rider’s seat and speakers are hung on either sides of the rear wheels
AIADMK’s campaign bikes are parked on important intersections where videos on ‘Amma welfare schemes’ including free bicycles, laptops for school students, gold (eight grams) for ‘mangalsutra’ are beamed.
The duration of the content runs for about three hours. Also, iPads are hand held by cadres and they show videos of the AIADMK’s “achievements,” to the people. Stalin, in his campaign continues to harp on AIADMK “government is non-functional,” barb.
Upbeat, he says his party would win all the three seats and the poll results would be a “fitting lesson,” to the ruling party and “a turning point” for the state. DMK has also been targeting the government on the Cauvery issue for over a month with a slew of protests like rail blockades, facilitating a meeting of farmers on the issue besides holding an “all-party meeting.”
Stalin has been highly critical of the ruling party for what he calls “not even convening a special Assembly session to mount pressure on the Centre,” over the Cauvery issue.
DMK seeks to pick holes in the claims of the ruling party over the welfare schemes and tells voters that it was Kalaignar’s (Karunanidhi) regime that “delivered on its promises.”
A total of 81 contestants are in the fray in the three Assembly segments — 79 men and two women – after ten candidates withdrew their nominations. Election Commission put out the final list of contestants after the date for withdrawal of nominations ended on November 5.
In the past about 20 years, all bypolls had been won only by the ruling party in Tamil Nadu. It remains to be seen if the trend will continue. In Aravakkurichi, 39 candidates are in the fray and in Thanjavur and Thirupparankundram, 14 and 28 candidates respectively are set to contest.
Paramilitary forces have also begun arriving at the three constituencies for deployment during the polls.