AS TAMIL Nadu heads to the ballots on Monday, the early promise of a multi-cornered contest has whittled away into an all too familiar tale for the state — a battle between the ruling AIADMK and the DMK.
Much of this is being attributed to the well-funded campaign machineries of both Dravidian heavyweights, who have swamped the electoral space, causing smaller parties to lose their visibility.
One of the telling figures of the campaign was the Election Commission’s seizure of over Rs 100 crore in cash in Tamil Nadu. According to EC officials, this is the highest pre-election cash seizure anywhere in the country. Unsurprisingly, the DMK and AIADMK have been accused of bribing voters, from offering money to slum-dwellers to handing out fuel tokens and shopping coupons to middle-class voters. The Election Commission also issued notices to AIADMK supremo and Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa and DMK president M Karunanidhi for violating the model code, saying their election manifestos did not “substantially” fulfil its guidelines.
While tough battles are expected across much of the 234 assembly constituencies, the AIADMK, apart from concerns that parties like the DMDK and PMK may eat into its electoral base, has to contend with the revolving door voting pattern in the state. Barring the MGR regime in the ’80s, governments have changed every five years in the state.
What works for the AIADMK is that there is none of the strong anti-incumbency that the DMK faced in 2011. “People cannot vote for the DMK citing AIADMK’s corruption as the alleged volume of corruption against the DMK was more visible and large during their previous tenure. Still there are indications of resentment against the AIADMK. It may be for multiple reasons including corruption, unemployment and the larger distress and frustration of a population that is not promised any sustainable economic programmes but only freebies,” says P Ramajayam, political analyst with Centre for Study of Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy, Trichy. He adds that if the DMK does win, credit should go to M K Stalin, who has rebranded himself in the last nine months.
Aides of Jayalalithaa are dismissing any predictions of a loss, claiming that the alleged massive corruption, rowdyism and land grabbing by local DMK leaders, during their last time in power, continues to sway voters.
With battle lines drawn, Jayalalithaa (RK Nagar), Karunanidhi (Tiruvarur) and his son M K Stalin (Kolathur) are expected to coast to victory while the going may prove tough for some prominent leaders like DMDK chief Vijayakanth (Ulundurpet), VCK leader Thol Thirumavalavan (Kattumannarkoil), PMK leader Anbumani Ramadoss (Pennagaram), and actor and AIADMK leader Sarath Kumar (Thiruchendur).