Voting began this morning in all 39 Lok Sabha constituencies in Tamil Nadu and the lone seat in neighbouring union territory of Puducherry in the single phase elections, under a tight security blanket.
An estimated 5.50 crore electorate will decide the electoral fortunes of 845 Lok Sabha aspirants, including former Union ministers A Raja, Dayanidhi Maran, TR Baalu, S Jagathrakshakan and TKS Elangovan (all DMK) and Manishankar Iyer and Karti Chidambaram, son of Union Finance Minister P Chidamabaram of Congress.
In Puducherry, Congress leader and Minister of State in PMO V Narayanaswamy is locked in a stiff contest with ruling AINRC and PMK in a multi-cornered fight with 30 aspirants in the fray. Puducherry has a total electorate of 8.85 lakh.
The single-phase polling for 39 Lok Sabha seats in Tamil Nadu on Thursday will put to test the capabilities of the ruling AIADMK, the sibling war-driven DMK and the BJP's ambition of riding the ‘Modi wave’ after drawing a blank in two previous polls in the state.
Chief minister J Jayalalithaa-led AIADMK has pumped in all its resources into this high-stake election as it is firm on extending its winning streak since 2011 assembly polls and propel the party supremo into the national political map.
Dethroned in 2011 and battered by full-blown sibling war between his two sons — treasurer MK Stalin and expelled Madurai strongman MK Alagiri — DMK patriarch M Karunanidhi is working hard to revive the electoral fortunes of his party after consciously dumping its decade-old ally Congress.
The BJP, which managed to stitch up a six-party alliance including actor Vijaykanth's DMDK, Vaiko's MDMK, the Vanniyar party PMK and two smaller parties, is fighting all 39 seats. In the 2011 assembly polls, this group won more than 16% of votes.
Chennai South, along with Coimbatore and Kanyakumari, is seen as one of the seats where the BJP has a fighting chance. Its best showing in Tamil Nadu has been four seats in 1999 as the junior partner to the DMK; now, for the first time, it is the steering partner in a coalition that excludes both major Dravidian parties. A tally for the alliance of six to eight is conceivable.
The Congress appears to be dead in the water. The party is perceived to be an ally of Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapakse, seen as a slayer of Tamils in Sri Lanka, according to locals.
Prominent leaders in the contest include DMK's former Union ministers — Dayanidhi Maran (Chennai Central), A Raja (Nilgiri SC), both facing corruption charges in the 2G scam — TR Baalu (Thanjavur), S Jagatrakshakan (Sriperumbudur) and TKS Elangovan from Chennai South, which has the highest number of 42 candidates.
Former Union minister Mani Shankar Iyer of the Congress, the PMK's Anbumani Ramadoss and his NDA ally Vaiko of MDMK are also testing their fortunes.
Electoral authorities have made arrangements for trouble-free voting by 5.50 crore eligible voters in 60,817 polling stations in the state, where 845 candidates, including 55 women aspirants are in the fray.
In the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, the DMK and the Congress won 18 seats, the AIADMK won nine and the CPI and the CPM one each.
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Here's a map for the constituencies going to polls on Thursday. On searching, you will get details of all parties fighting from a constituency and key candiates there:
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