The single-phase polling for 39 Lok Sabha seats in Tamil Nadu on Thursday would put to litmus test the capabilities of ruling AIADMK, sibling war driven DMK trying to revive its electoral fortunes ahead of 2016 Assembly elections, and BJP’s hopes of riding the ‘Modi wave’ to make a mark after drawing a blank in two previous polls.
Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa-led AIADMK has pumped in all its resources into this high-stake election as it is firm on extending its winning streak since 2011 Assembly polls and propel the party supremo into the national political map to enable her realise her aspirations of playing a greater role.
Dethroned in 2011 and battered by full-blown sibling war between his two sons — Treasurer M K Stalin and expelled Madurai strongman M K Alagiri — DMK patriarch M Karunanidhi is working hard to revive the electoral fortunes of his party after consciously dumping its decade-old ally Congress, apparently apprehensive of UPA’s anti-incumbency factor.
DMK’s success in this election also rests on the stand Karunanidhi’s rebellious son Alagiri adopts as the latter has been vocal that DMK candidates, especially in Virudhunagar, Theni and Thanjavur, should lose.
DMK has taken local players like VCK, MMK, IUML and Puthiya Tamizhagam on board in its Democratic Progressive Alliance (DPA) in an apparent bid to net minority and Dalit votes and challenge AIADMK in this election, which is crucial for both Dravidian outfits with the next Assembly polls due in just two years.
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BJP, which managed to stitch up a six-party ‘rainbow’ alliance, roping in cine star-turned-politician Vijayakant’s DMDK, Vanniyar community backed PMK among others, expects the combine to pose a hurdle for AIADMK and DMK in some constituencies, having presented a third alternative.
The saffron party, riding on the ‘Modi’ wave and the support base enjoyed by its allies has been dreaming of sending MPs to the Lok Sabha after a long time from Tamil Nadu, where its run remained on a barren stretch so far after the AIADMK and DMK kept away from it.
Notwithstanding the outcome, BJP by forming an alliance has scored a point over its national rival Congress, which has been left to fend for itself, being isolated by all parties in the state.
‘Puratchi Thalaivi Amma” (revolutionary mother), as Jayalalithaa is affectionately addressed by her followers, seemed to be largely banking on her government’s pro-poor schemes like subsidised canteens, packaged drinking water bottles sold at cheaper rates and distribution of freebies like mixer grinders and milch animals started three years ago.
However, DMK has been raising issues like acute drinking water shortage, sale of bottled water and power shortage to attack AIADMK.
Prominent leaders in the contest include DMK’s former union ministers– Dayanidhi Maran (Chennai Central), A Raja (Nilgiri SC), both facing corruption charges in 2G scam, T R Baalu (Thanjavur) and S Jagatrakshakan (Sriperumbudur) and T K S Elangovan from Chennai South, which has the highest number of 42 candidates.
Former Union minister Mani Shankar Iyer of Congress is fighting from Mayiladuthurai in Cauvery delta, while PMK’s Anbumani Ramadoss and his NDA ally Vaiko of MDMK are testing their fortunes from Dharmapuri and Virudhunagar respectively.
The electoral authorities have made arrangements for trouble free voting by 5.50 crore eligible voters in about 60,817 polling stations in the state, where 845 candidates, including 55 women aspirants are testing their fortunes.
More than 2.93 electoral officials will be deployed for the polling, which will begin at 7 AM and end at 6 PM, authorities said.
DGP (Elections) Anoop Jaiswal said 1.47 lakh police personnel would be on security duty.
AIADMK which jettisoned both left parties – CPI and CPM from its alliance over seat sharing differences, is contesting all the 39 seats. Among others, it has fielded sitting MPs M Thambidurai (Karur) and P Venugopal (Tiruvallore).
CPI and CPM are together contesting 18 seats on their own for the first time after a long gap.
DMK has fielded candidates in 35 constituencies and allotted four seats to its allies.
The BJP which got eight seats to contest under the seat-sharing formula with its allies, is in the fray in seven as nomination papers of its candidate S Gurumurthy was rejected from Nilgiri (SC) seat on procedural lapses.
DMDK is contesting 14 seats, followed by PMK (8) and MDMK (7). IJK and KMDK are fighting from one seat each under the saffron party led alliance.
In the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, DMK which fought it with Congress won 18 seats, notching up 25 per cent vote share and its partner won eight (15.3 per cent), AIADMK won nine (22.88 per cent) and CPI and CPM one each. CPI garnered 2.85 per cent of vote share and CPM 2.2 per cent of votes.
In neighbouring Puducherry, 14 candidates are contesting the lone Lok Sabha seat. Minister of State in PMO V Narayanaswamy, seeking a second term, is locked in a fierce contest with ruling AINRC candidate R Radhakrishnan and PMK’s R K R Anandharaman, both of whom claim to be NDA candidates.
Pondicherry has 8.85 lakh voters.
Alandur Assembly constituency, which is going to the bypoll tomorrow along with Lok Sabha poll, has 14 nominees in the field and their poll fortunes would be decided by 2.97 lakh voters.
The bypoll was necessitated following the resignation of the seat by Panruthi Ramachandran, who quit DMDK and later defected to AIADMK.