Election campaigning for a single phase poll in Tamil Nadu will come to a close on April 4. While the process has been largely peaceful, the visit of Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adithyanath to Coimbatore on March 31 was hardly so.
Hundreds of two-wheeler riders, reportedly members of Hindu Munnani and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) forced shopkeepers to down shutters and pelted stones at shops. The BJP has downplayed the violence and called it a one-off incident.
Meanwhile, the BJP government at the Centre continues with income tax (IT) raids in the state, with candidates and leaders of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) being the targets. The residence of DMK chief M.K. Stalin’s daughter and two party candidates were raided on April 2, inviting strong words of condemnation from various circles.
The election campaigning also witnessed leaders from the DMK, AIADMK, BJP and Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) courting controversy with inappropriate comments, while the Election Commission of India (ECI) has seemingly intervened rather selectively.
RAIDS TARGET DMK LEADERS, CANDIDATES
The IT department continued with selective raids in Tamil Nadu with the residence of DMK president M.K. Stalin’s daughter and candidates from Karur and Anna Nagar – Senthil Balaji and M.K. Mohan. This is not the first time that raids were conducted against DMK functionaries after the polls were announced.
“I won’t be scared by the raids”, Stalin said at an election campaign meeting after the raids began.
“They have no support from the people; the BJP, as usual, is abusing its power to ensure our defeat. We are not the AIADMK to fall on our feet due to fear of intimidation! No fear! We will boldly oppose! People will give a clear answer in response to your mistakes on April 6,” Stalin tweeted.
Opposition parties too condemned the BJP-led Union Government tactics in using central agencies to exert pressure on opposition parties.
In a tweet, Sitaram Yechury, General Secretary of the CPI(M), said the Centre’s acts were “a gross misuse of central agencies as a political tool... Facing imminent defeat, the BJP is resorting to intimidate & browbeat opposition. This will only steel people’s resolve to comprehensively defeat BJP alliance in TN”.
VIOLENCE DURING UP CM’s VISIT
Violence made a comeback in Coimbatore during the visit of UP CM Yogi Adityanath. Under the guise of a two-wheeler rally to welcome him, activists from the Hindu Munnani and the BJP forced shopkeepers to down shutters in the Town Hall area. The city has witnessed several violent protests by sangh parivar organisations.
Chanting offensive slogans, BJP supporters forced the shopkeepers to shutdown shops and pelted stones. A majority of the shopkeepers in the bazaar are Muslims.
Coimbatore MP and CPI(M) leader, P.R. Natarajan, visited the bazaar and extended support to the affected shopkeepers. “The sangh parivar organisations are trying to incite violence fearing defeat in the assembly elections. All the people of the city should unite to maintain peace in Coimbatore and defeat the fascist forces disrupting communal and religious harmony,” he said.
The Coimbatore police have booked BJP and Hindu Munnani activists for the incidents.
The national president of the BJP Mahila Morcha, Vanathi Srinivasan, is in a triangular fight from Coimbatore (South) constituency against actor Kamal Haasan and Congress candidate Mayura S. Jaya Kumar. In a press meet the next day she downplayed the violence as a minor incident.
From the violence in 1998 to several other incidents, the sangh parivar organisations have resorted to such acts to keep Coimbatore on the boil.
LEADERS COURT CONTROVERSY WITH DEROGATORY COMMENTS
The election campaign also witnessed a flurry of controversial comments made by the leaders of major political parties. DMK leader and former minister, A.Raja, was banned by the ECI from campaigning for 48 hours for his alleged comments on Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami’s mother.
The DMK leadership condemned the comments and Raja himself expressed an unconditional apology and claimed his comments were misquoted.
In his Dharapuram election campaign for L. Murugan – the BJP state president – the Prime Minister tried to portray the DMK as a party which did not respect women and that the state should reject the DMK-led alliance for it.
However, the BJP has fielded the controversial leader H. Raja from Karaikudi constituency. Raja has made derogatory comments against K. Kanimozhi and women journalists. Several women journalists and activists have appealed to voters to defeat H Raja, citing his controversial comments against women on several previous instances.
The DMK leadership questioned the morality of the BJP leaders, citing several incidents of violence and derogatory comments against women in Tamil Nadu and other parts of the country.
PMK leader and former minister Dr. Anbumani Ramdass used derogatory language to target DMK candidate Velmurugan, a former PMK MLA.
AIADMK leaders, including star campaigners, have been making news for their derogatory comments against DMK leaders, which have not attracted the ECI’s ire.
The PM promises of growth and providing jobs have hardly attracted the youth, while the repeated raids targeting the DMK too has not helped the BJP on the ground.
The emotional outburst by AIADMK leaders, including CM Palaniswami and the Health Minister, during their campaign are seen as tactical moves to attract votes, with several pre-poll surveys predicting a victory for the DMK-led alliance.