The campaigning for the rural local bodies elections in nine districts of Tamil Nadu concluded on October 4. The two opposing alliances led by the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) are locking horns for the honour despite differences within the coalitions on seat sharing.
The electors will exercise their franchise on October 6 and 9, and the results will be out on October 12. The elections were actually scheduled in December 2019, but were delayed due to formation of new districts.
Around 76.59 lakh voters will decide the fate of 79,000 candidates contesting for around 24,000 positions of village panchayat ward members, presidents of village panchayats, panchayat union and district panchayat ward members.
The elections are highly insignificant considering the number of districts, the parties are on a full fledged campaign to prove their strengths. Allegations of cash for vote and auctioning of the posts of panchayat president have already surfaced.
RUMBLING IN THE DMK CAMP
The DMK and its allies are hoping to repeat their performance in the last two elections -- the 2019 general elections and the 2021 assembly elections. But, all is not well in the camp. Though the alliance is intact, there is discontent among the parties on seat sharing.
In several panchayat union (5000 electoral wards) and district panchayat (50,000 electoral) wards, which are contested under party symbols, candidates from parties of the same alliance filed nominations. A total of 2,981 candidates have been elected unopposed, while 79,433 candidates are in the fray for 23,998 posts in the nine districts, namely, Chengalpattu, Kancheepuram, Vellore, Ranipet, Thirupathur, Villupuram, Kallakurichi, Tirunelveli and Tenkasi.
The Congress and the two left were unhappy with the number of seats allotted to them even as the seat sharing talks were unfruitful.
In Vellore district, the Congress decided to contest alone, but was changed later. The nominations of the Congress candidates were withdrawn, bringing down the curtains on the rumblings within the alliance.
But, in Tenkasi district, candidates of DMK and the Communist Party of India (CPI) are contesting against each other, while in Tirunelveli, candidates of DMK and Communist Party of India (Marxist) [CPI(M)] are contesting in the same union panchayat wards, as per the information available in the website of the state election commission.
The leaders of the parties have downplayed the contests, since the same happens in the local body elections.
AIADMK HOPES TO RETAIN HOLD IN RURAL AREAS
The AIADMK led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) suffered a setback, as the Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) decided to contest the polls alone. But, the party claimed to continue in the NDA.Seven of the nine districts are in the north part of the state, where the PMK claims to have a considerable vote bank.
The two AIADMK leaders, Edappadi K Palaniswami (EPS) and O Panner Selvam (OPS) were busy visiting the districts going to polls. The party is desperately trying to stay aloft, despite its loss in the assembly polls. OPS has made his presence felt in the campaign, since he was confined to his constituency and surrounding areas in the assembly elections.
The AIADMK seems to be putting up a united face in the elections, with both EPS and OPS addressing street-corner and public meetings in the poll-bound districts.
The rural areas are traditional strongholds for the AIADMK and the party is hoping to give DMK a run for their money. The elections are closely fought, with AIADMK highlighting the failures of the DMK government.
In the AIADMK camp, too, the seat-sharing talks were not satisfactory. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Tamil Maanila Congress (Moopanar) led by former union minister G K Vasan have put up candidates against AIADMK in several wards.
Other parties, the Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam (AMMK), Makkal Needhi Maiam (MNM), Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam (DMDK) and the Naam Tamilar Katchi (NTK) have also put up candidates to ensure their presence in the elections.
ELECTION CRUCIAL FOR PUBLIC, BUT MONEY WIELD POWER
Tamil Nadu is home to a history of huge cash distribution for votes in elections, leading to cancellation of elections itself. The recent one being the Vellore Lok sabha elections in 2019.
The major political parties, with the exception of the left parties, rely on distributing cash to the voters. Even in the elections to the panchayat ward members and panchayat presidents, which are contested without party symbols, the money involved is very high.
The local body elections are no different, with cash distribution having a free run. Reports of candidates to the president of village panchayats spending up to Rs 1 crore have emerged. Tamil Nadu state election commission (TNSEC) has announced that it has seized Rs 33.90 lakhs, 1,000 bottles of liquor and other gift items between September 18 and 29.
Complaints of auctioning of the posts of panchayat president have also emerged in different parts of the state. The state governments are unable to curb this practice, with the parties including the DMK and AIADMK dependent on caste-based votes.
The rural local bodies are highly important for the public as these bodies and the representatives actively engage in solving the day to day issues faced by people. The elections, actually scheduled in 2016, were delayed till December 2019 with the then AIADMK government inviting wrath from the courts for delaying the elections.