Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin's son Udayanidhi Stalin during an election campaign for the upcoming local body polls, in Kumbakonam. (PTI Photo)
Chennai: The State Election Commission (SEC) was gearing up for the polls to Saturday's Urban Local Bodies by dispatching personnel and material to set up the booths and activating its flying squads, observers and monitoring committees to prevent last minute irregularities on Friday when complaints, too, poured in about alleged plans for booth capturing.
AIADMK leader D Jayakumar, who was at the SEC office with a petition, expressed apprehension over the ruling DMK scheming to capture booths and prevent genuine voters from entering the premises itself by unleashing violence.
He urged the SEC to monitor the situation and prevent the ruling party from committing such irregularities when DMK leader R S Bharati told the media that the AIADMK was creating a scene in Coimbatore as it developed fears of what it considered as its bastion in the past was crumbling.
Accusing the previous AIADMK government of not holding the first set of rural local body elections during its tenure at Fort St George properly, Bharati said that the second set of elections to the rural local bodies were conducted in a fair and free manner after the DMK came to power.
Now the AIADMK was enacting a drama in Coimbatore by hurling false charges against the DMK as it stood to lose there in a big way in Saturday’s elections, he said.
As it is evident from the exchanges, the real fight in the elections is basically between just the two Dravidian behemoths with the rest of the parties not getting more than an ‘also ran’ role with no scope for making large scale conquests of Corporations or Municipalities or Town Panchayats.
In the intense fight that had taken the contours of an Assembly or even a Parliament election with top leaders spearheading their parties’ campaigns and raising larger issues, including national ones, in their speeches, both the DMK and AIADMK have lost several grassroots workers.
While the DMK ousted over 170 of its members over alleged ‘anti-party activities,’ which primarily was contesting as rival candidates to the official nominees or doing something or the other to thwart the victory of the party candidate, the AIADMK had to expel 145 members for the same reason.
This grassroots level rebellion is a real indicator of the electoral dynamics changing in these elections with people being impelled to vote for parties rather than candidates, something that defeats the purpose of grassroots democracy.
At least three parties had taken this election very seriously. The DMK is keen on proving that its popularity had not waned in the eight months of rule by sweeping most of the wards and also the post of Mayors, Municipal Chairpersons and Chairpersons of Town Panchayats, while the AIADMK wants to establish its relevance in the political arena.
The BJP that broke its alliance with the AIADMK to go it alone in the polls wants to test the water and also check out how much it has grown in terms of popularity among the people of the State, who normally prefer one of the Dravidian parties.
The other lone rangers like the PMK, DMDK and NTK did not make their presence felt much in the hustings while the AMMK was not to be seen anywhere at all. Those parties that have aligned with the DMK and AIADMK and have settled for less number of seats are only seen as appendages of the Dravidian majors that levelled charges against each other in public during the past two weeks.
Though the DMK’s campaign began on a positive note, highlighting the schemes launched in the past eight months of rule, it soon was dragged into a slugfest, countering charges and making counter charges.
First came the NEET issue triggered by the Governor R N Ravi returning the Bill seeking exemption for the State on February 1, forcing the government to convene the Assembly and send back the Bill. With the AIADMK trying to cash in on the sensitive issue, it alleged that NEET was introduced when the DMK was part of the UPA government.
So, Stalin had to counter it saying that NEET was implemented only after the AIADMK came to power, which led to a challenge for a debate on the issue. Similarly, the AIADMK made allegations against the DMK government of non-implementation of election promises, breakdown of law and order and so on, forcing the Chief Minister to counter them.
Even the BJP was targeting the DMK by accusing it of reneging in its poll promises, besides trying to highlight the achievements of the party at the national level.
What actually was lost in the cacophony was the local issues at the ward level that the contestants were expected to address and canvass for votes by establishing a personal rapport with the people, which is the real spirit of grassroots democracy.