High stakes for rival fronts in politically volatile TN, Kerala

Last Updated: Tuesday, April 12, 2011 - 23:11

Chennai/Thiruvanathapuram: Politically
volatile Tamil Nadu and Kerala will go to assembly polls
on Wednesday with 6.91 crore voters expected to decide the fate of
the rival fronts, locked in a bitter race for supremacy.

The two southern states would be witnessing one of the
closest electoral battles ever. The union territory of
Puducherry will also go to polls on Wednesday.

For octogenarian chief ministers M Karunanidhi and
VS Achuthanandan, both 87, this might be the swan song of
their electoral battle.

In Tamil Nadu, ruling-DMK led front is battling all
odds with the AIADMK-combine launching an all out offensive to
dislodge Karunanidhi, veteran of many a successful electoral
battle in his seven decades of public life.

In neighbouring Kerala, another battle-scarred veteran
Achuthanandan is trying to buck the trend of electorate voting
alternately between LDF and UDF once in five years.

In Puducherry, the Congress-led combine, including DMK
and PMK, is facing a tough challenge from the front led by
former chief minister N Rangasamy`s All India NR Congress that
has AIADMK in its fold.

Being pillars of their respective fronts, the
wheel-chair bound Karunanidhi and CPI-M stalwart
Achuthanandan, sprightly despite his age, have both campaigned
intensely turning the clock back.

The main rival for DMK is the Jayalalithaa-led AIADMK
which has sewed up a formidable alliance. Both Karunanidhi and
Jayalalithaa had confidently asserted during a no-holds-barred
campaign that their party would form the next government.

In what is seen as a do-or-die battle for
Jayalalithaa, the AIADMK leader has sought to whip up
anti-incumbency sentiments, asking people to end `family rule`
of Karunanidhi.

Polls in Tamil Nadu this time, described as
`challenging` by Chief Election Commissioner SY Quraishi
himself, have come under EC`s microscopic scrutiny following
allegations of free flow of money by the ruling party to lure
voters.

In highly politically polarised Kerala where marginal
swings could turn the tide either way, ruling CPI-M-led LDF is
battling Congress-headed UDF.

Initially, the odds appeared stacked against LDF going
by the political trends reflected in the Lok Sabha and civic
polls in which UDF acquitted itself remarkably.

But LDF got a big boost after the end of uncertainty
over entry of Achuthanandan who now seems to have taken the
fight to the UDF camp in his characteristic aggressive style.

The electoral battle is intense in all 140 segments
with no wave palpable in favour of either LDF or UDF.

In both Kerala and Tamil Nadu, BJP is striving to open
its legislative account.

In Kerala, CPI-M is trying hard to save its only
government in the south. Though there were bickerings over the
renomination of Achuthanandan in the run-up to the elections,
the CPI-M high command had intervened to settle the issue in
favour of the octogenarian leader.

Political heavyweights among 2,773 candidates in the
fray for 234 assembly seats in Tamil Nadu include Karunanidhi
(Tiruvarur), Jayalalithaa (Srirangam), Karunanidhi`s son and
Deputy Chief Minister M K Stalin (Kolathur) and DMDK
actor-founder Vijayakanth (Rishivanyam).

The DMK is contesting 119 seats,leaving 63 to
Congress, 30 to PMK, 10 to Viduthalai Chirutagal Katchi, seven
to Kongu Munnetra Katchi, three to IUML and one each to
Moovendar Munnetra Kazhagam and Perunthalaivar Katchi.

AIADMK has fielded candidates in 162 segments,
allocating 41 seats to DMDK, 12 to CPI-M, 10 to CPI, three to
Manithaneya Makkal Matchi, two to All India Samuthuva Makkal
Katchi, one each to AIFB, All India Movendar Munnetra
Kazhagam, RPI and KonguIlaginar Peravai.

A total of 971 candidates are in the fray in Kerala, a
majority of them independents. The state has a total
electorate of 2.31 crore.

These are the first polls in Kerala after NRIs got
voting rights. However, only 8,862 NRIs have registered as
voters while an estimated 2.2 million Keralites are working
abroad, mostly in Gulf countries.

High-profile candidates include Achuthanandan
(Malampuzha), UDF`s chief ministerial probable Oommen Chandy
(Puthupally), KPCC president Ramesh Chennithala (Harippad),
CPI-M Politburo member Kodiyeri Balakrishnan (Thalassery),
Muslim League leader PK Kunhalikutty (Vengara), Kerala
Congress (M) supremo KM Mani (Pala) and senior BJP leader O
Rajagopal (Nemom).

Over 8.10 lakh voters are expected to exercise their
franchise in Puducherry for the 30-member assembly
where ruling Congress is contesting 17 seats.

On the rival side, the All India NR Congress has
fielded candidates in 17 seats and its partner AIADMK in 10.

Congress`s main ally DMK is contesting ten seats.

The main contestants are Assembly Speaker R
Radhakrishnan, Chief Minister V Vaithilingam and all his five
ministerial colleagues, Puducherry unit`s DMK convener and
former chief minister RV Janakiraman, and Rangasamy, who is
chief ministerial candidate of the rival front.

There are in all 187 contestants including 78
independents in the fray.

PTI



First Published: Tuesday, April 12, 2011 - 23:11

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