Rivals ooze confidence
Here is the big picture of Tamil Nadu. These two leaders cannot stand each other. They have not spoken to each other, perhaps ever, in their long political careers.
And they are the alternatives before the people: Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalalitha and DMK chief M. Karunanidhi.
Waiting in the wings for an eventual political eclipse of these leaders are a host of personalities — from MDMK's Vaiko who is Karunanidhi's ally, to the BJP and the squabbling Congress. They all hope that the decline of the Dravidian parties will lead to the rise of their fortunes.
Meanwhile, the Left parties (DMK allies) expect a return of their relevance if the DMK-led alliance bags enough seats to show that Jayalalitha is on her way out.
The DMK-led Opposition would have us believe there is an anti-Jaya tide in the state. The question is: Will she be able to stem the tide?
Farmers, teachers and government employees are waiting to see Jayalalitha bite the dust, say DMK leaders. "She will hardly get four or five seats," says MDMK leader Vaiko.
But Jayalalitha says she will again prove the media and opinion polls wrong. The quality of her governance is unmatched and will see her party through, she claims.
She has been running a virtually one-woman campaign against a formidable alliance led by 79-year-old Karunanidhi who has made it a do-or-die battle.
Jayalalitha asks for votes in the name of Prime Minister Vajpayee while Karuna-nidhi and other Opposition leaders say "vote for us if you want a dictator out".
Politics apart, caste and communal considerations play a big role in southern Tamil Nadu where fortunes of prominent figures like ex-finance minister P.Chidambaram (Sivaganga), Union minister Pon Radhakrishnan (Nagercoil) and former Union minister Dhanushkodi Adityan (Tirunelveli) will be decided.
The AIADMK is contesting 33 of the 39 seats in Tamil Nadu, leaving to the BJP six seats in the state and the lone Pondicherry seat.
The DMK has fielded candidates in 15 seats, allotting 10 to the Congress, 5 to the PMK, 4 to the MDMK, two each to the two Left parties and one to the Muslim League. The PMK is contesting the Pondicherry seat.