By S. Sethuraman
Tamil Nadu election for its 234-member Assembly on April 6 would witness a medley of battle-lines, involving not only the two major Dravidian rivals but two other fronts throwing up challenges to the voting strengths of traditional rivals — the ruling AIADMK and DMK.
The outcome, to be known May 2, looks more unpredictable than before, now that one of the two major Dravidian rivals, the ruling AIADMK, has courted the majoritarian BJP at the Centre to join the battle and help its own survival. Future costs for this relationship, if successful, to Federalism and Dravidian language and culture are out of account in this exigency.
The AIADMK manifesto has also taken populism to a crude level offering, among other things, washing machines to every ration card holder, besides six free LPG cylinders a year and other props, to look more attractive to voters than what the DMK unveiled in its list of promises to citizens a day earlier.
Both have loan waivers, educational loans in particular, cash assistance and other props to a maximum possible— all at the risk of further reductions in capital expenditure on infrastructure when States are running revenue-deficit budgets.
DMK says it would reserve 75% jobs for locals and slash petrol and diesel price by R.5 and 4 per liter. AIADMK promises include Amma Housing Scheme, 50% bus fare subsidy for women in city buses, one year maternity leave and expansion of nutritious meals scheme to students.
While DMK finalised its alliance, including the Congress and the Left and other traditional State allies in a relatively smooth manner, the ruling AIADMK led by Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami faces far too many dissidents (many sitting MLAs left out, unlike DMK). DMK has retained over 80 sitting MLAs and ex-Ministers and also accommodated parties with caste allegiance.
AIADMK has both PMK (of Dr Ramadoss) and BJP as allies given 23 and 20 seats respectively. The left-out MLAs of the ruling party and disappointed hopefuls have embraced AMMK (Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam), led by T TV Dhinakaran, nephew of V K Sasikala who claims to be keeping out of politics for the present. Chief Minister E K Palaniswami had turned down reconciliation proposals.
AMMK, owing allegiance to founder of AIADMK ‘Amma’ Jayalalithaa, is opposed to present leadership of the party in power but also more against DMK. And its role may get some boost from its new ally, Captain Vijaykant’s DMDK with 60 seats to contest. AMMK has released its lists of candidates to cover the bulk of total Assembly seats.
But the actor-turned politician, Mr Kamal Hasan, in refreshing contrast, seeks to take Tamil Nadu out of “venomous corrupt dispensation” for past decades, with his MNM (Makkal Needhi Maiam) floated in 2019, scoring 3.7 per cent votes in the Lok Sabha election.
In interviews, he has said while winning seats may be fair expectation for a party, “whatever happens in the 2021 election, you cannot dismiss MNM from the map of Tamil Nadu politics” for the future. Mr Kamal Hasan has filed his own nomination from Coimbatore South constituency.
“We have this vantage position of ‘centrism’, which allows us to place people before even ideologies. This is the virtue and strength of centrism, which is fast gaining momentum in world politics.” He also maintains that ‘Dravidian’ is an anthropological description and cannot be limited to two or three parties and should include everyone who speaks Tamil.
And so, Mr Kamal Hassan’s MNM with a fresh agenda for the State’s economic and social development with clean administration and joined by several retired officials and intellectuals is filing nominations (now in progress) with a first list of 70 candidates.
Two allies of MNM would nominate 40 candidates each. Whatever the outcome, Mr Hasan says his first priority would be giving teeth to Lokayukya in Tamil Nadu.
Leaders of parties who have filed their nominations include AIADMK Chief Minister K Palaniswami (Edappadi), Deputy Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam (Bodinayakanur), DMK President M K Stalin (Kolathur), AMMK leader TTV Dhinakaran (Kovilpatti). MNM President Kamal Hassan (Coimbatore South) and L Murugan, State BJP President (Dharapuram -Reserved)
There are now hardly three weeks left for campaigning. Both national parties, BJP and the Congress, fight for their place in the State. DMK has agreed to the 25 constituencies it preferred by the Congress while the BJP campaign should get a big boost with Prime Minister Narendra Modi planning to address three or four meetings in the State. The Congress would face BJP in five seats and AIADMK in 15 places.
Taking all developments thus far in view, the DMK president Mr M K Stalin maintains firmly that he has no doubt about DMK’s victory on May 2. After filing his nomination, Mr Stalin left for his home town Tiruvarur to launch his election campaign on March 15. (IPA Service)