Chennai: The principal opposition DMK got off the blocks for the most keenly watched local body poll battle likely to be held in May with a meeting of its district secretaries on Tuesday, even while its rival AIADMK is battening down the hatches following public resentment and rebellion among its ranks.
The DMK leaders elicited the opinion of district secretaries confident of going it alone in the civic polls as the ruling party is up against the toughest challenge in its over four decades of existence. Besides the alliance strategy, the issues that could be taken up for the civic polls were also deliberated.
The party is unlikely to confine itself to local issues like drinking water, waste management, roads and infrastructure during the poll campaign as it wants to raise the dominance of AIADMK general secretary V.K. Sasikala's in the party and government and convert the elections into a referendum on the AIADMK government.
As the DMK functionaries are confident of going on their own in the local body elections since they expect a three-way split, besides a big erosion in the ruling party's vote share, the Congress upping its ante for a tough bargain is unlikely to worry the DMK leadership.
The Congress has openly demanded fresh negotiations for the allotment of wards, but it may not risk breaking the alliance, as it does not have the option of allying with the AIADMK, which is in total disarray without a popular leader at the helm.
As leaders of local bodies will be elected by the councillors, other parties like the PMK, MDMK, BJP, VCK and Left parties could turn kingmakers, if they win a handful of wards in their stronghold areas. The MDMK has announced that it would go it alone in local body elections and it may focus on the western and southern regions, besides a few areas of influence in Tiruchy, Karur and eastern Kanchipuram.
The People's Welfare Alliance comprising CPM, CPI and VCK is yet to start their preparations and the BJP too is aiming to establish itself at the grassroots level.
The DMK needs to win more than half of councillors in the local bodies to avoid dependence on other parties.
In the 2016 Assembly elections, the DMK had obtained more votes in Chennai and Vellore corporations, besides giving a tough fight in Tiruchy, Thanjavur, Madurai, Tirunelveli, Dindigul and Tuticorin.
The party may still face stiff challenge in Salem, Erode, Tiruppur and Coimbatore corporations where its performance was below par in the last Assembly polls. Even now, most of the key ministers including Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palanisami are from Kongu region.