Tamil Nadu’s ruling AIADMK will field a record highest 227 candidates in the assembly elections, with Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa contesting from flood-battered Chennai. Even the allies in the remaining seven seats will seek votes on the AIADMK symbol.
Jayalalithaa, 68, announced the candidates’ list, saying she will seek re-election from Radhakrishnan Nagar constituency in north Chennai, an area that was badly affected in the unprecedented December floods.
The decision is significant as opposition parties were hoping to make the government’s handling of the floods in the city a major election plank.
The AIADMK general secretary also said that her party will contest all 30 seats in Puducherry and put up seven candidates in Tamil areas of Kerala.
Assembly elections in all three states are scheduled for May 16.
While a majority of the Tamil Nadu ministers have been retained as candidates, some outgoing legislators, including 10 ministers, have been dropped.
Jayalalithaa rewarded those who switched loyalties to her party from the DMDK, DMK and PMK.
The notable new entrant is Panruti S. Ramachandran, who had quit the DMDK. He was one of the leading lights of the AIADMK when its founder, the late MG Ramachandran or MGR, presided over the state.
Another old timer who has been fielded is C. Ponnaiyan, a former minister.
Though eight DMDK legislators turned rebel and supported the AIADMK during the most part of the outgoing assembly and later joined the ruling party, only K. Pandiarajan out of them has been given a ticket.
Jayalalithaa has also fielded M. Kalaiarasu and PT Elangovan, who had quit PMK, and Parithi Ilamvazhuthi, who had quit DMK and joined AIADMK.
Former DGP R Nataraj is one of the new faces in the party list. He will contest from Mylapore in the heart of Chennai.
The AIADMK candidates’ list is a mix of graduates, post-graduates and those with professional qualifications. Over 10% of the candidates are women.
Actors-turned-politicians R Sarathkumar and Karunas will contest from Thiruchendur and Thiruvadanai constituencies respectively. They are among the seven candidates from smaller parties allied with the AIADMK.
AIADMK spokesperson Avadi Kumar told IANS that it was the first time that the party was contesting in more than 200 seats.
Though the allies have been given seven seats, they will contest under AIADMK’s “two leaves” symbol. Thus, for the first time, the AIADMK symbol will be seen in all the 234 constituencies.
Jayalalithaa first became chief minister in June 1991 and was voted out in 1996. She again became chief minister in May 2001 but stepped down in September that year due to legal hassles.
She was allowed to return to her post in March 2002 and retained it till May 2006. After the May 2011 elections, she took charge of Tamil Nadu again till September 2014 when she resigned due to a legal row.
She returned to the chief minister’s post in May 2015.
In Puducherry, the AIADMK will contest all the 30 seats. In 2011, it had tied up with All India NR Congress there. After the elections which the alliance won, the relationship between the two soured.
In neighbouring Kerala, the AIADMK has fielded seven candidates as against six in 2011. The AIADMK tasted success in six wards in last year’s Kerala civic polls.
For the 2016 assembly elections, Jayalalithaa has fielded three candidates each in Palakkad and Idukki districts and one candidate in Thiruvananthapuram. All the areas have sizeable Tamil population.