The much anticipated Assembly elections in Tamil Nadu is getting more focus with the ruling and opposition parties pointing guns at each other. The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) has alleged widespread corruption in the 10 years tenure of the AIADMK, making it a campaign material in the ‘Peoples’ Sabha’ held across the state.
Meanwhile, the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) has been pushed to the backfoot after the party functionaries were arrested by the CBI on the Pollachi sexual harassment case. But the government is continuing to roll out populist measures to gain advantage.
LEADERS CHALLENGE FOR DEBATE
The DMK president M K Stalin has levelled a series of corruption charges against the state government in various departments including highways, handled by the chief minister himself. The party also submitted a chargesheet to the Governor on corruption and sought action on the charges.
Further, different anti-corruption organisations have alleged massive corruption in BharatNet project, highways, Greater Chennai Corporation (GCC), which the DMK is projecting as one among the many failures of the AIADMK regime.
On the other hand, CM Edappadi K Palaniswami (EPS) has refuted the charges levelled by the DMK president as baseless and claimed that the government is successful in meeting the needs of the people.
This war of words also led to a challenge from EPS, inviting Stalin for a one on one debate on corruption charges against the DMK in the past. Stalin has accepted the challenge, with a demand for an enquiry on charges levelled by the party. However, the possibility of such a debate happening is highly improbable, said political observers.
AIADMK FUNCTIONARIES ARRESTED IN POLLACHI ABUSE CASE
At the same time, the AIADMK government has been projecting itself as a ‘model government’, with a massive publicity blitz in print and digital media. The party has been trying hard to tide through the anti-incumbency wave and put up an united face as the Assembly elections are due in another four months.
In continuation with previous announcements, the AIADMK government on January 10 announced that students of government and aided colleges will receive a data card of 2 GB per day for attending online classes.
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However, even as the party worked overtime to save its face from allegations of misgovernance, the arrests of its leader in the Pollachi sexual abuse case came as a severe setback. One among three men arrested by the CBI was an AIADMK student wing secretary.
The case sent shockwaves through the state as several women had raised their complaints and AIADMK was charged of protecting the accused men. More ironically, the arrest came on a day when the advertisements in the dailies hailed the AIADMK government’s welfare measures and protection ensured for women.
The All India Democratic Women's Association (AIDWA) which led the campaign for the arrest of the perpetrators has demanded the arrest of all individuals involved in the case. The organisation along with other political parties held a protest in Pollachi on January 9. Many participants including DMK MP, K Kanimozhi were stopped enroute to the protest site.
SIMMERING DISCONTENT BETWEEN EPS AND OPS
With many factors playing against the AIADMK, the discontent between EPS and his deputy O Panner Selvam (OPS) is out in the open again. The AIADMK general council meeting, held on January 9 amid much expectations, however endorsed the selection of EPS as the CM candidate of the party for the 2021 elections, but all is not well between the duo.
OPS was found nowhere in any of the advertisements run by the state government which projected EPS as the sole face of the government. After being sidelined in the government advertisements, OPS launched his own publicity campaign in the newspapers, which intentionally left out EPS.
The election campaign of the party is also being led by EPS, which has created fissures among the two leaders. This has reportedly led to the separate campaign by the OPS camp, which hailed OPS as the heir of J Jayalalitha.
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The council meeting did not discuss anything on the possible release of V K Sasikala, the former general secretary of the party, who was even selected as the legislature party leader in 2017, before being convicted and jailed in the disproportionate assets case.
The issue of the enquiry on the death of J Jayalalitha didn't make it to discussion in the general council. The rift in AIADMK began with OPS raising doubts over the death of the late stalwart in 2016, which led to the split in the party. There seems to be no end to this dispute, while the apex court has stayed the enquiry of the commission set up by the state government.
BJP ON BACK FOOT?
Another unexpected development in the council was the criticism levelled against the BJP. In spite of EPS announcing that the alliance between AIADMK and BJP will continue in the 2021 Assembly elections, the alliance remains uncertain, particularly with the joint convenor of AIADMK, K P Munusamy, ridiculing BJP for its claims on leading the alliance in the state. He reportedly went on to state that national parties have no say in Tamil Nadu politics.
The BJP was relying on the political plunge of actor Rajinikanth to increase its bargaining capacity, but to no avail now. The pressure on AIADMK on the BJP for a higher number of seats has considerably reduced.
The BJP was vociferous until recently, claiming that the party will be part of the alliance government after the Assembly elections. After the much hyped ‘Vetrivel Yatra’ fell short of the expectations, the saffron party is now holding Pongal festivals in different parts of the state to gain mileage.
On the other hand, the AIADMK seems reluctant to carry BJP with it for the Assembly elections, as the alliance had failed miserably in the general elections, but AIADMK managed to retain a considerable number of seats in the Assembly by-election held simultaneously.
With pressure mounting on AIADMK government on corruption charges, the party is desperate to improve its possibility to retain power. The DMK alliance, in spite of demands from smaller parties for fighting on their own symbols, seems to be ahead of the AIADMK for now.
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