CHENNAI: After fierce electioneering over a span of about four months, with a resurgent DMK eyeing capturing power and a determined AIADMK straining every nerve to retain power for the second time, Tamil Nadu is all set for the Assembly polls on Tuesday.
The most intense in its electoral history and the first polls in the absence of stalwarts, AIADMK’s J Jayalalithaa and DMK’s M Karunanidhi, Chief Minister K Palaniswami, who is seeking a third successive win from Edappadi segment in his home district of Salem, steered his party’s hectic campaign.
With women (3,19,39,112) outnumbering men (3,09,23,651), the 6.28 crore voters, which includes 7,192 third gender people, would decide the fortunes of 3,998 candidates.
As many as 13 candidates, including BJP’s Pon Radhakrishnan and Vijay Vasanth of Congress are in the fray for the bypoll to the Kanyakumari Lok Sabha seat.
Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam, who too embarked on an aggressive campaign, is contesting again from his native Theni district’s Bodinayakanur constituency, where he emerged victorious in the 2011 and 2016 polls.
The AIADMK leadership that began the campaign in December last, latched on to government’s ‘achievements’ like 7.5 per cent quota for government school students in medical admissions, successful COVID-19 management and poll promises like Rs 1,500 monthly assistance to families.
The DMK’s poll plank was corruption charges against the government and 500 plus poll promises, including Rs 4,000 relief to COVID-19 hit rice ration card holders and legislation to earmark 75 per cent of jobs for locals.
DMK chief M K Stalin, who spearheaded several campaign programmes against the ruling party, including the ‘We Reject AIADMK’ in December last and ‘people’s’ grama sabhas, vigorously toured the state to take on the ruling AIADMK.
He is seeking reelection for the straight third term from Kolathur segment here.
His son and party youth wing secretary Udhayanidhi Stalin is debuting from Chepauk- Triplicance constituency.
For the first time, Makkal Needhi Maiam, founded in 2018 and led by actor-politician Kamal Haasan, is trying its luck in Assembly polls.
AIADMK’s ally, BJP which is contesting in 20 constituencies, has made a serious bid to make a mark in the Assembly polls.
Currently, the BJP has no MLAs in the Assembly.
The saffron party conducted a ‘Vel’ yatra last year and claimed in its campaign that it had championed the cause of protecting the people’s sentiments.
Its yatra prompted DMK chief Stalin to even hold a ‘Vel’.
Several senior BJP leaders, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah and BJP national chief J P Nadda were among those who campaigned.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi toured Tamil Nadu with zest and covered many regions to woo voters, targeting the BJP for not ‘respecting’ Tamil culture and its ally, the AIADMK leadership, for ‘bowing’ before the Centre.
The Congress, an ally of the DMK, is in the fray in 25 Assembly segments.
Haasan is trying his luck from Coimbatore South, while BJP’s state unit president L Murugan and the saffron party’s Kushbhu Sundar are contesting from Dharapuram and Thousand Lights constituencies respectively.
Another AIADMK ally PMK is contesting from 23 constituencies and is pinning its hopes on measures like the 10.5 per cent internal reservation for Vanniyars, a Most Backward Community.
AIADMK’s rival Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam, led by TTV Dhinakaran (contesting from Kovilpatti) and Nam Tamizhar Katchi of Seeman (Tiruvotriyur) made a determined effort to woo voters.
DMDK, which walked out of the AIADMK alliance over not being alloted the number of seats it sought, is fighting the polls in alliance with AMMK.
The state has 88,937 polling stations 1,29,165 ballot units, 91,180 control units (which comprise the Electronic Voting Machine) and an equal number of VVPAT (Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail) units.
As many as 4,17,521 polling personnel are on duty and over 1.50 lakh security personnel, including those from state police, Central Armed Police Force, and home guards have been deployed.
There are 10,813 vulnerable polling stations and 537 critical and webcasting is all set to be done from ’50 per cent’ of the polling stations.
A total of Rs 428.46 crore worth seizures have been made in the run up to the polls, which includes a cash component of Rs 225.52 crore.
There are 234 Assembly constituencies which goes for a single phase polls on Tuesday.
AIADMK is in the fray in 191 segments (including allies who are contesting on AIADMK’s two-leaves symbol) and DMK is fighting from 188 constituencies (including poll partners who are contesting on DMK’s Rising Sun symbol).
The DMK was in power during 2006-11.
The AIADMK, then led by late Jayalalithaa, won the 2011 polls hands down and also went on to retain power in 2016.