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DMK, AIADMK locked in close battle in TN polls
Both the major Dravidian parties have been winning the elections alternately since 1989.
Chennai: Ruling DMK and AIADMK are locked in a close race for electoral supremacy in the April 13 Tamil Nadu polls with both sewing up formidable alliances, setting the stage for one of the fiercest battles ever.
Both the major Dravidian parties have been winning the elections alternately since 1989 and AIADMK taking the lead in bringing all major opposition parties under its umbrella has made the contest a much closer one than ever before.
DMK has retained its seven-year old ally Congress, considered to be the third largest party in the state, besides the most backward Vanniars based Pattali Makkal Katchi, Dalit-based Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi, Kongu Makkal Katchi (KMK) and the IUML.
For its part, the AIADMK has aligned with the actor-turned politician Vijaykant's DMDK, the second largest constituent of the front, the Left parties and some minor parties, including Manitha Neya Makkal Katchi, a Muslim outfit.
The DMK front claims that the presence of PMK and VCK, has given their front an upper hand in the northern parts of the state, where Vanniyars and Dalits formed over 70 per cent of the electorate.
Also, in DMK's calculations, the alliance with the KMK would give it an edge over the AIADMK in the western districts, considered a bastion of Jayalalithaa's party.
The AIADMK claims that the presence of DMDK, said to have a larger following among the Vanniyar community, would neutralise the PMK's effect in the northern belt and its traditional vote bank in the southern and western districts would give a big boost to the combine.
However, the DMK is banking on implementation of several welfare schemes, including the free distribution of colour TVs and medical insurance for the poor, to give them an edge in the rural areas.
Schemes to provide potable water in several southern districts has consolidated their position in these districts, it claims.
DMK is also confident that the Congress, which has influence in northern and southern districts of the state, would add to its vote bank in these areas.
In the 2009 Lok Sabha polls, the DMK made a clean sweep in the northern districts, despite the absence of PMK in their combine. PMK had contested as part of the AIADMK-combine but drew a blank.
In the southern districts, DMK lost only the Tenkasi seat to the CPI. Even MDMK leader Vaiko had to bite the dust in his home turf Virudunagar by an unknown Congressman Manick Takur.
MDMK has opted out of the polls this time peeved at neglect by AIADMK in allocating the number of seats it had asked for.
However, the western districts continue to remain as the bastion of the AIADMK where it won almost all the seats, besides two seats in the Cauvery delta in the Lok Sabha polls.
DMK attributed AIADMK's success due to 'infighting' among the partymen in these areas, besides splitting of votes by KMK, which garnered more than a lakh of votes contesting alone.
Now that the KMK in its front, the DMK feels confident that the region would no longer remain an AIADMK stronghold. Emerging steadily as a powerful force in northern belts, DMDK has for the first time in its six-year-old existence opted for an alliance.
It had been contesting elections on its own without winning seats, barring lone success of Vijaykant, but polled around 10 per cent votes that has hurt both the principal camps, more so the AIADMK.
Redefining populism, both the DMK and AIADMK have vied with each other in showering promises of freebies from rice, fans, mixers, grinders to mineral water and laptops.
If DMK promised free rice to the BPL families, AIADMK promised it to all. Free laptops, grinders and mixers are common in the manifestos of both the parties.
Campaign has been mainly door-to-door by the candidates, who have to slug it out with just a fortnight left for the polls.
It has been a low-decibel campaign with Election Commission clamping several restrictions that have also ensured fewer posters and cutouts, whose overwhelming visibility has been the hallmark of Tamil Nadu polls.
Arch-rivals Jayalalithaa and Karunandihi have hit the campaign trail criss-crossing the state beating the summer heat.
Actors Kushboo, Vadivelu and Union Minister Napolean have been the DMK star campaigners. For the AIADMK, Vijaykant, Saratkumar, President of the South Indian Artistes Association and founder of All India Samuthuva Makkal Katchi, are the main campaigners, besides Jayalalithaa.
Denial of tickets to some of the sitting MLAs and local prominent persons in both combines, has led to a lot of discontent among the cadres.
AIADMK had to change at least four candidates owing to pressure from party men.
The nomination of Jayanthi, wife of TNCC President K V Thankgabalu in Mylapore in the city, by Congress, has created heartburn among sections of party workers, who had gone to the extent of fielding a rebel candidate. Even effigies of Thankgabalu have been burnt by the agitated workers. Protests have also been reported from Krishnagiri and Vilavancode.
In the DMK, allocation of Vedaranyam seat to PMK ignoring the claims of sitting MLA S Vedarathinam has sparked protests and he has jumped into the fray as an independent.
Even in the cadre-based CPI-M, denial of ticket to John Jacob, a sitting MLA from Kanyakumari district has not gone down well with the partymen. Jacob has since filed his papers from Vilavancode as an independent.
Political observers feel that with no visible mood of any incumbency or anti-incumbency, the elections would be the toughest in recent years.
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