Chennai, May 14 (IANS) Campaigning in Tamil Nadu and neighbouring Puducherry for the May 16 assembly elections ended on Saturday with rival fronts and other political parties making a last minute effort to woo the voters.
In Tamil Nadu, around 5.82 crore voters are set to elect a new 234-member assembly and in Puducherry around 941,000 voters are expected to elect a new 30-member assembly.
While Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J.Jayalalithaa flew to different districts to address election rallies, her main rival, DMK leader M.Karunanidhi travelled by road/train to appeal to the voters for their party candidates as well as that of their allies.
Electioneering began more than a month back in Tamil Nadu that is witnessing a multi-cornered contest this time around.
In the fray are 3,785 candidates that include 3,453 men, 320 women and two of the third gender. The total number of polling stations is over 65,600.
The AIADMK is going to the polls aligning with a couple of smaller outfits, fielding its candidates in 227 seats while the balance have been given to its allies.
This is the first time in the party’s history that the AIADMK is contesting in more than 200 seats.
Though the allies have been given only seven seats, they will contest under AIADMK’s “two leaves” symbol. Thus, for the first time, the AIADMK symbol will be seen in all the 234 constituencies.
The DMK has aligned with the Congress, two Muslim parties and some smaller outfits.
The third front led by the DMDK (symbol drum) comprises the Communist Party of India-Marxist (hammer, sickle and star), the Communist Party of India (ear of corn and sickle), VCK (ring), TMC (coconut trees) and MDMK (top) under its fold.
The Bharatiya Janata Party leads another front with smaller outfits while Naam Thamizhar Katchi is also contesting 234 seats under ‘two burning candles’ symbol.
The PMK that started its campaign much ahead of others on the theme “change and progress” projecting former union minister Anbumani Ramadoss as the chief ministerial candidate is also going it alone.
In a way, the PMK set the election agenda with its promise of prohibition and soon other parties following suit. PMK has charged DMK of copying several aspects of its manifesto.
The ruling AIADMK that has been saying that prohibition is not possible too changed tune. The party leader and Chief Minister J.Jayalalithaa promised phased introduction of prohibition without specifying any time frame.
In a planned strategy, leaders of two major parties – AIADMK and DMK – criticised each other and consciously avoided attacking other parties to convey to the people that it is they who matter and there is no alternative to them.
Barring AIADMK, no other major party promised major freebies. The ruling AIADMK promised free mobile phones for all ration card holders and 50 percent government subsidy on scooter purchase by women.
Apart from various freebies and welfare measures introduced by its government, the ruling party is also banking on its legal victories in safeguarding the state’s interests in issues like sharing of Cauvery river water (dispute with Karnataka) and water storage level in Mullaperiyar Dam (dispute with Kerala).
The BJP which is hoping to open its account in the Tamil Nadu assembly this time had Prime Minister Narendra Modi, party president Amit Shah and several central ministers campaigning in the state.
On the Congress side, party president Sonia Gandhi and vice president Rahul Gandhi campaigned.
Interestingly there are four chief ministerial candidates this time around – Jayalalithaa, Karunanidhi, Ramadoss and A.Vijaykant.
MDMK leader Vaiko backed out the contest at the last moment.
In Puducherry though there are several parties in the fray, the main contest is between the Congress-DMK combine and the ruling AINRC.
In 2011, AINRC teamed up with AIADMK. But after the elections, AINRC ditched AIADMK and did not share power with the latter.
Jayalalithaa, during her election rally in Puducherry, said Rangasamy betrayed her party and voting for AINRC is like committing suicide.