Tamil Nadu polls: Did Jayalalithaa’s ill health curb her campaign? 

  • KV Lakshmana, Hindustan Times, Chennai
  • Updated: May 17, 2016 12:08 IST
Tamil Nadu chief minister and AIADMK chief J Jayalalithaa leaves a polling booth after casting her vote, in Chennai. (PTI Photo)

If Amma had campaigned more vigorously, she would have swept away the opposition, said an AIADMK candidate.

J Jayalalithaa, the only star campaigner of her party, toured the length and breadth of Tamil Nadu but had to use a helicopter to travel to and from rally venues. This gave the opposition a chance to criticise her for flying when all other political leaders travelled by road and train, including DMK president M Karunanidhi at the old age of 92, presenting a contrast with the “flying CM”, as Jayalalithaa was described by Congress leader EVKS Elangovan.

Jayalalithaa, who began her campaign on April 9, canvassed on every alternate day till May 12. On each outing, she held a single public meeting in which 15 to 24 candidates of neighbouring constituencies were presented to crowds.

The buzz in political circles was that Jayalalithaa’s ill health had curtailed her ability to make more public appearances. Even on Monday, when she visited Stella Maris College here to vote, her walk was visibly slow and laboured.

Read | Exit poll gainers upbeat, others dismissive: What politicians said

While political leaders maintained a dignified silence on her health, second-rung leaders and stand-up comedy artists engaged by opposition parties commented on whether the electorate wanted a CM who could not work.

At a pre-election programme, DMK treasurer MK Stalin had alluded to her ill-health by saying that Jayalalithaa was unable to stand for a long time in order to present awards at public functions. “I would hand over each and every award to winners,” Stalin said, in a bid to highlight the contrast between the two leaders’ health.

Incidentally, the issue of Jayalalithaa’s health was a topic of discussion last year, with Karunanidhi alleging that the chief minister had no work as she was not in good health.

Exit polls, released on Monday, were split over Tamil Nadu with an advantage to the DMK. Three surveys predicted a defeat for Jayalalithaa’s AIADMK but the fourth said she would retain power comfortably, winning 139 of the 234 seats.

Tamil Nadu

Party/Alliance News Nation India Today-Axis Times Now-CVoter Chanakya
AIADMK 95-99 89-101 139 90 (±9)
DMK+ 114-118 124-140 78 140 (±11)
DMDK+ 14 -- -- --
BJP+ 04 00-03 00 00
Others 09 04-08 17 4 (±2)
Total seats 234 234 234 234

The AIADMK supremo’s offer of freebies to voters might not make up for her frequent and prolonged retreats and failure to respond to last year’s Chennai floods.

Polling ended in the last leg of assembly elections on Monday, with Tamil Nadu registering 70% voter turnout - 8 percentage points less than the 2011 elections till 6pm.

Read | BJP takes Assam, Jaya slips, Mamata stays, Kerala turns Left: Exit polls

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Jayalalithaa’s populist poll promises can hurt TN in long run, say experts
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