With only three days left for filing nominations for the Tamil Nadu Assembly election 2021, almost all candidates of all the political parties have been announced and the campaigning is going on full-swing.
In the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), of the 179 seats that the AIADMK is contesting, only the candidate for Padmanabhapuram constituency in the Kanyakumari district still stands unannounced. Meanwhile, the Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) has released only its first list of 10 candidates for the Assembly election on March 10, and 13 more names are awaited. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) released a list of 17 candidates on March 14, out of the 20 seats that the party is contesting. The Tamil Maanila Congress (TMC) joined the alliance late, but named all six of its candidates on March 12.
In the Secular Progressive Alliance (SPA), the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) announced candidates for 173 seats in one go. The Congress released a list of 21 candidates on March 13, and is yet to announce four more. The Communist Party of India, CPI (Marxist) and Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam have announced candidates for their respective six constituencies each.
Simultaneously, political parties are also releasing election manifestos. The DMK and the AIADMK released their manifestos one after the other on March 13 and 14. Latest is the Congress manifesto released on March 16.
The few prominent faces of the BJP in Tamil Nadu are among the candidates announced so far.
The party’s state president L Murugan is contesting from the Dharapuram constituency in the Tiruppur district. The national president of the BJP’s women wing, Vanathi Srinivasan, has been given the Coimbatore South seat to face the Makkal Needhi Maiam (MNM) chief Kamal Haasan. Former national secretary H Raja, elected from Karaikudi in 2001, has been named from there again.
Out of the 17 names announced until now, three are women, including actor Kushboo Sundar who will contest from Thousand Lights in Chennai.
The sitting Thiruparankundram MLA Dr P Saravanan was added to their candidate list hours after he joined the BJP. He was earlier with the DMK. Though the promptness was stunning, it exposed the BJP’s desperation. It is a fact that the party does not have a strong base in the state and is struggling to find prominent faces.
Former AIADMK minister and BJP Tamil Nadu vice president Nainar Nagendran on March 12 filed his nomination from Tirunelveli Assembly constituency even before BJP released its list of candidates for the state. Though his name featured in the list, it raised eyebrows doubting internal tiff in the party.
Also see: Dravidian-Secular Govt Wanted in Tamil Nadu: Deepthi Sukumar
The release of the list of candidates from Delhi by the national general secretary Arun Singh in Hindi and English has also drawn criticism, as sentiments against Hindi imposition are strong in the southern state.
MORE PROMISES FROM AIADMK
Hoping to win the Assembly polls for the third consecutive term, the AIADMK has once again filled its election manifesto with many populist schemes. Among other things, Amma washing machine for all, travel concessions for women, government job for at least one person from each family, waiving of educational loans, Amma banking card scheme, MGR green auto and Amma housing scheme feature in the list of long promises.
The list of promises pending from their previous manifesto is also long. The distribution of cellphones to ration cardholders, return to the old pension scheme for government employees, free Wi-Fi at public places among others are still only on the manifesto paper.
The AIADMK, which voted in support of the BJP in passing the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) three years ago, has now vowed for its revocation. This has reportedly come as an embarrassment to alliance partner BJP.
As part of election promises, the AIADMK also said it would urge the Centre to reduce the fuel prices considerably.
The inevitable question in response to the long list of promises in the manifesto is why the AIADMK government did not do many of these in their outgoing tenure.
Responding to the list of sops, the chief of the DMK, Stalin said “They (AIADMK) could even announce that an aeroplane and a helicopter will be given to everyone. They can say anything because they know they are not going to win the elections”.
EXTENSIVE PROMISES FROM DMK & CONGRESS
The DMK is not far behind in making big promises. The party has promised monetary aid of Rs 4,000 for ration cardholders impacted by COVID-19, reservation in employment in private sector, free bus passes for women in city buses, 75% reservation for Tamil Nadu residents in jobs across the state and priority to first-generation graduates in government job recruitments if voted to power.
The DMK has also promised a cut in the price of petrol and diesel by Rs 5 and Rs 4 per litre, respectively, and in the cost of domestic gas cylinders by Rs 100.
The promise of a proper inquiry into the death of former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa is also found in the manifesto.
The Tamil Nadu Congress president KS Azhagiri released the party’s election manifesto on March 16. The party promised to increase employment and exempt tax for startups for at least five years. Steps to close liquor shops, a separate law to prevent honour killing, steps to abolish NEET exam also feature in the manifesto.
THIRD FRONT, FOURTH FRONT…
Days after exiting the AIADMK-led alliance over seat-sharing dispute, actor-turned-politician Vijayakanth's DMDK finalised an election partnership with TTV Dhinakaran's Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam (AMMK) on March 14. The party will contest 60 seats in the alliance.
The other parties in the camp are Asaduddin Owaisi’s All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) (3) and the Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI) (6).
After announcing that the Makkal Needhi Maiam (MNM) will contest in 154 constituencies, its founder Kamal Haasan filed his papers for the Coimbatore South constituency. The party got a considerable vote share in the region in the 2019 parliamentary elections.
As is the practice, the Tamil nationalist party Naam Tamilar Katchi (NTK) is contesting all 234 Assembly constituencies in the state. The party has given 50% seats to women candidates. The party has a relatively steady vote share of 4%, predominantly in rural parts of Tamil Nadu.
(Charts and image by R. Prakash)
Also read: TN Assembly Elections: DMK Gears up as Favourite with Stalin at Helm