Tamil Nadu is facing a different election this time: the people seem indifferent to the polls or undecided about their choices.
The incumbent J Jayalalithaa’s AIADMK struggles to retain power and the DMK has to invest enough resources to recapture power. In the past, the state always had a reason to defeat the ruling party – other than in 2006 when the alliance arithmetic worked in favour of the DMK despite having no major anti-incumbency wave. With a multi-cornered contest this time, the major challenge before the Dravidian parties was to assess the damage that could be inflicted by the Vijayakanth-led third front and Anbumani Ramadoss-led PMK.
J R Bashiyam, a senior political analyst observes that the AIADMK which was supposed to win the elections has not put up a good enough show till now. “Due to the track record of DMK, there was a general perception that the AIADMK will come back to power. But Jayalalithaa’s restricted campaigns and low profile compared to her previous campaigns suggests the party is at risk. On the other hand, the DMK is not pouring enough resources into the campaign except for their strong social media campaign and Stalin’s rallies in certain pockets. Also expected spoilers in the race seem to be weaker than earlier supposed. It’s going to be a different election this time,” he said.
What surprised many in the state is the delay in releasing the AIADMK manifesto — is Jayalalithaa over-confident that it is still to be released? Social media was abuzz with rumours on Saturday about the contents of AIADMK manifesto: promises of LCD TVs, two-wheelers for women, some 200 units of free power etc, were spoken of.
The DMK manifesto which has promised almost everything possible under the sun including a reduction in the price of milk from government-run Aavin by Rs 7 per litre, which could help lower middle class families to save at least Rs 210 a month.
The voters in Tamil Nadu have are playing their cards close to their chest. Karuppaiah, a villager near Ottapidaram near Tuticorin said he doesn’t believe in polls at all. “Whoever wins or not, what is the benefit for me? I am past 65, I have eight goats, my MLA doesn’t come to me nor do I go to him for any help. I know that one day I would fall down and die. I just have to keep going until that day,” he said.
Noor Muhammed, a roadside vendor near Manapparai in Trichy said that he and other like him have no stake in the election process. “They come to us during elections with folded hands and that’s all till the next election. How does it help us?”
“We got Rs 2,000 from Amma but still we voted for Kalaignar in 2006. We had a big fight at home on whom to voted for in 2011 — we finally voted for Jayalalithaa just because we wanted to defeat DMK even if we like Kalaignar and Stalin,” says Usha Devi, again a roadside vendor near Madurai West constituency. “This time I will vote for Stalin. I saw him twice here in the last few months. But I am still afraid of Azhagiri coming back if they win the election,” she said.
K Ramajayam, once a PMK-supporter from Perambalur, complained about the freebies: “Both the colour TV from Karunanidhi and grinders from Jayalalithaa had to be repaired after one year, twice or thrice. We spent almost the actual price for repair work alone.’’ His daughter, however, endorsed that the laptops from Jayalalithaa and said that she would vote for Jayalalithaa.
People in urban areas who recall the DMK for the 2G scam and the number of corruption charges against their ministers laugh at Jayalalithaa too. An employee who works at Fort St. George, the state secretariat wonders who to vote for. “In our office, we use Amma as a shield to oppose and attack Kalaignar (Karunanidhi). But we know that the shield is growing rusty by the day,” he said.