Tamil Nadu Poll 2016: Big battle for defeating formidable Jayalalithaa!
-Dr. Abdul Riff Colachal
Tamil Nadu will elect a new government in three weeks’ time from now. Without any serious doubts one can say the ruling AIADMK is in an advantageous position to retain the Madras fort maybe with very little problems, but then, as it can only be expected, the trend could change drastically in these three weeks.
The elections to the 234-member TN Assembly will be held on May 16 and the votes polled would be counted on May 19. The state is facing a big battle for defeating formidable ruling AIADMK led by well set Jayalalithaa. Hence tension prevails in every party head quarters in Chennai.
The alliances of DMK-Congress led by Karunanidhi and People’s Welfare Alliance (PWA/PWF) led by Vaiko, along with other minor parties and alliances, are gearing up to unseat the Jayalalithaa’s government by revealing all drawbacks of the government, while the Jayalalithaa’s AIADMK is successfully propagating the programs and steps being taken by her government.
Even as all major parties are busy campaigning for the poll, Tamil Nadu chief minister and AIADMK general secretary J Jayalalithaa, PMK Chief Ministerial candidate Anbumani Ramadoss and former CM and DMK chief Karunanidhi have on April 25 filed their nomination papers in R K Nagar constituency in Chennai, in Pennagaram in Dharmapuri district and Thiruvarur constituency in Nagapattinam district, respectively for the May 16 assembly election.
Jayalalithaa is the sitting MLA of the R K Nagar constituency. (In 2011 elections she had won from Srirangam but she had to quit the seat following the court orders over illegal asset case. Possibly she thinks Srirangam is not an auspicious constituency and decided to contest from RKN constituency when the judge wrongly released her, and won it). The AIADMK chief arrived at the Tondiarpet zonal office of the Chennai Corporation and filed the nomination. Hundreds of AIADMK cadres waited for Jayalalithaa along the roads since morning. As a result of this, Rajaji Salai, Mannarsamy Koil Street, Suryanarana Chetty Street and Tiruvottiyur High Road faced traffic snarls. Dance troupes entertained the crowd as loudspeakers blared party songs. Other main candidates in the constituency are Shimla Muthuchozhan of DMK, P Agnes of PMK and former Manonmaniam Sundaranar University vice-chancellor Vasanthi Devi of VCK.
While Karunanidhi came to file the nominations for the poll along with his close realties like wife and Maran, CM Jayalalithaa came to file the nomination papers along with Sasikala, her thick friend who possibly is more than any of her close relatives.
People’s Welfare Alliance convenor Vaiko, was expected to file his nomination before the Revenue Divisional Officer in Kovilpatti but after reaching the office on April 25 as per plan, he decided not to file nomination papers and instead made one of his followers to file the nomination papers to contest from Kovilpatti. Later, speaking from a ban in Kovilpatti Vaiko blamed the DMK for not allowing him to contest by creating caste related problems in the constituency. Vaiko also announced he would not contest the state assembly poll, thereby creating shock among his supporters. Of course, without the leader in the field, the party workers may feel dejected.
The decision of Vaiko not to contest the assembly poll, because of DMK caste politics, is not wise at all. Delhi people rejected the candidates of Aam Aadmi Party for the parliamentary poll mainly because Arvind Kejriwal did not contest from New Delhi and went to Varanasi to fight against Modi. Later, when Kejriwal contested for Delhi assembly poll from New Delhi, people voted him and his party overwhelmingly and game them a historic mandate.
Vaiko needs to learn from Kejriwal experience. Latest news reports he might contest from another constituency.
As it was speculated, the week beginning April 25 saw a flurry of hectic political activity with top Chief Ministerial contenders — J. Jayalalithaa and M Karunanidhi — and other players like Anbumani Ramadoss filing their nomination papers. The next five days should set the high stakes ball rolling for the May 16 Assembly polls. Though filing of nominations began on Friday, so far less than 100 candidates have submitted their papers, leaving all major action to take place this week as the last date for filing the papers will be April 29. As April 25, Monday is an auspicious, muhurtham day, most leaders, including Karunanidhi and Vaiko, who are the products of the Dravidian movement, chose the day to file their nominations.
DMDK chief Vijayakanth, the Chief Ministerial candidate of the DMDK-PWA combine, will file his nomination on April 27 before the Assistant Commissioner (Excise) in Villupuram. The last day for filing nominations is April 29 and scrutiny would be held on April 30 and nominations can be withdrawn till May 2.
DMK and BJP are facing an existential threat situation in the state in their own ways. While DMK has been a ruling or opposition party for decades, BJP has just managed to enter the state by profitable alliance with DMK and its foe AIADMK, alternatively. While BJP’s far of getting totally wiped out of the state is logical, similar feelings. If any, in DMK is unwarranted as DMK cannot disappear irrespective of the poll outcomes, whether AIADMK or PWA wins. However, both AIDADMK and DMK do not take the PWA seriously enough. Though the arrival of PWA to represent common me people of the state with its anti-corruption and anti-liquor agenda was embarrassing for the ruling AIADMK, it does not think can defeat both the top Dravidian parties, the DMK sees Vaiko led alliance a serious threat to its future ambitions because DMK was hoping to win the poll this time by riding on Jayalalithaa’s disproportionate asset case which is now in the supreme court.
DMK’s efforts to divide the PWA and even every party in the alliance have not been successful. Interestingly, DMK leaders view the PWA as coming in the way of DMK returning power but they fail to understand the even without PWA, DMK cannot defeat AIADMK. It is time the party revised its poll strategy if it really wants oust the Jayalalithaa’s government. Targeting the PWA won’t do any good for DMK.
Meanwhile, the BJP, having lost hopes of making inroads in Tamil Nadu like in Karnataka and AP/Telengana, has harked back to its old formula of Hindutva politics to woo the Hinuds. Already the BJP leaders have begun appearing in saffron cloths in public meetings to impress the Hindus.
After failing to form an alliance of any significance, the BJP in Tamil Nadu has harked back to its old formula of Hindutva politics and left alone to face its own unhappy fortunes in the TN poll where dominant parties and alliances are sure to dominate the poll outcomes, the BJP has reverted back to its Hindutva basics to woo the Hindus the strategy that helped the outfit to enter the state decades ago.
The saffron tint in the manifesto it released last week was obvious. Apart from its long-time pet projects such as protection of cows, the party this time went more adventurous. From enactment of a strong anti-conversion law to removing State control of temples, the party’s focus was on the hardcore Hindu urban voter. There were also assurances to specific caste groups the party has been targeting over the past two years. BJP now openly targets Muslims as well as atheists so that Hindus would vote for the BJP Hindus. At the event to release the manifesto, RSS man and BJP national secretary H. Raja, the brain behind the Hindutva document, accused the DMK of minority appeasement for stating in its manifesto that sale of temple lands would be considered under certain circumstances whereas the Wakf Board lands under encroachment would be retrieved. The party promised reservation on the basis of income in place of castes. The Congress reacted immediately, calling the promise a challenge to the Scheduled Castes and Backward Classes. It said when converts being brought under reserved categories affected the Hindus already in the group.
In the ongoing assembly poll only one party – PMK- has decided to contest all seats alone. Not even the ruling AIADMK could not make a firm decision to go it alone, though it did reject both national parties Congress and BJP that sought alliance with the ruling dispensation as their first choice, and though it left many parties, including TMC and DMDK, after negotiations for alliance.
DMK, dreaming for an early return to power to help the ‘families’ make quick wealth by easily defeating the AIADMK, decided to have alliance with Congress, leaving another dreaming party BJP with its long term ambition to rule Tamil Nadu. Having got no big party, BJP looked for at least small parties to win at least a couple of seats if other parties can allow that to happen.
As it stands now, Jayalalithaa’s AIADMK has advantages over DMK-Congress duo but, having just begun a joint campaign in a systematic way, the new untested PWF alliance of 6 parties, committed to cause of common people, anti-corruption and anti-liquor, job creations, etc is capable of upsetting the apple cart of Jayalalithaa.
Meanwhile, there are a few instances of members quitting DMDK and TMC and joining DMK or AIADMK as they think one of these two Dravidian parties alone would form government as usual. Even while they were in DMDK and TMC they wanted their leaders to make alliances with bone of these parties, and having disappointed by the leadership decisions of both parties to abandon both and join the PWF, the ‘rebels’ have left the parties. In fact both DMK (and to some extent, AIADMK) encouraged those who are not happy with their leadership to dessert their parties and join them for MLA seats and future favors. Such cross movements are common during poll seasons in Tamil Nadu as elsewhere in the country.
Fighting a tough electoral battle ahead of the May 16 Assembly polls, DMK chief M Karunanidhi, in his inaugural poll campaign in the capital on April 23, charged arch rival and Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa with running “queen’s rule” and called for a change of guard. “Will there be any dawn for the poor people of the state? There is a need for change and all should strive to bring that change. But in that process, don’t bring disappointment to me and for DMK,” he said while launching his election campaign at Saidapet in Chennai.
Taking a swipe at Jayalalithaa over the December 2015 torrential rainfall and subsequent demon floods-deluge in Chennai, he said the CM had not even visited flood-affected areas, including RK Nagar where she is contesting again, to meet people while opposition parties, including DMK, had lent a helping hand to the citizens. Karunanidhi said he himself had gone to the affected areas, adding that it was important for persons in public life to meet people often.
Even in the past, Tamil Nadu has witnessed cyclones and similar situations, and then Ministers had worked to face the crisis, the DMK leader said. “But this queen (Jayalalithaa) doesn’t come out at all. She only travels in a helicopter,” he said in a reference to the AIADMK supremo undertaking the aerial route to address election rallies in different parts of the state. There is “queen’s rule” in the state who is not bothered about people, he said. Karunanidhi emphasized that DMK workers were committed to public service even as he alleged people were facing many problems in the state under AIADMK rule.
The shrewd Dravidian politician said he was confident of a good show by his party, pointing out to the good turnout at the meeting. Earlier, in a slip of the tongue, the DMK president sought votes for DMK and “Communists” before being corrected by party leaders, including his grand nephew and former Union Minister Dayanidhi Maran. Now communists are with PWA. The 92 year-old immediately corrected it to ‘Congress’, which had aligned with DMK recently after the two parted ways in 2013 on the Sri Lankan Tamils issue.
Criticizing AIADMK supermo and incumbent TN chief minister J Jayalalithaa’s statement that she lives for Tamils as the people have made her what she is, former Opposition leader and DMDK leader Vijayakanth has asked her if she would give away all her wealth, like her bungalows, to people of Tamil Nadu in appreciation of what they have done to her by making her CM of the state for three terms.
DMK tops the list of parties that have announced new schemes for the people if they come to power with many many projects and proposals for every section of Tamil community. However, the critics say they would not fulfill all those promises in full. Perhaps they would do a few things for a few days as a lip service and close them. They had it when won the elections then defeating the Congress party when they sold rice at Re one per two liters for a day in three big towns, Chennai, Tiruchi, Coimbatore and Madurai.
Speaking in Pondicherry, Jayalalithaa said DMK gimmicks are known to people as it has no concern for peole just like Congress party. DMK-Congress duo is a Himalayan corruption alliance.
Meanwhile, the opposition leaders Stalin, Vijayakanth and Vaiko have complained to the TN election commissioner about the hidden money bags in various places and transported by cars, vans and even ambulances. Stalin wondered if police is also involved b the ruling party in transporting and distributing money. Stalin said the election commissioner is doing enough to unearth money and arrest the guilty. Though there are reports about recovering hidden money in lakhs, no one has been arrested so far, making the inland money laundering easy.
If it is serious about coming power in the state, PWA needs to step up campaign and stop making contradictory and unnecessary statements. No point in worrying after the poll because you have to wait for another 5 years to correct your mistakes.
Time is running very fast. Chennai fort is far away!