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TN set for high-voltage campaign

The parties are keeping their gun powder dry for firing salvos during the next over 40 days of electioneering.

india Updated: Mar 27, 2006 18:59 IST

The stage is set for a high-voltage campaign in Tamil Nadu for the May 8 assembly polls with the parties keeping their gun powder dry for firing salvos against the rivals during the next over 40 days of electioneering.

Arch rivals in the state's politics- ruling AIADMK and the DMK- have already indicated that national issues would be in the forefront, putting local issues on the backburner.

Tamil Nadu has always witnessed a no-holds barred campaign with political leaders resorting to personalised attacks.

AIADMK supremo Jayalalithaa, who opposed Congress chief Sonia Gandhi being projected as the Prime Ministerial nominee during the 2004 Lok Sabha poll campaign due to her foreign origin, has already hinted she would take up Gandhi's action of quitting the Lok Sabha seat and the NAC chairpersonship, while DMK chief M Karunanidhi had praised her "sacrifice".

While Jayalalithaa alleged that the Congress leader tried to make a virtue out of "a compelling necessity", Karunanidhi praised Gandhi for "upholding high standards of morality".

Both of them made it clear that it would be a major issue, which would be debated during the electioneering.

Karunanidhi had obviously taken up the issue to "encash" on any sympathy that may be generated for Gandhi as people of the state are always known to be having a "soft corner" towards members of the Nehru family, political observers feel.

They also point out that Jayalalithaa's attack on Gandhi on the foreign origin issue during her Lok Sabha poll campaign had literally backfired as could be seen from the AIADMK's rout.

Jayalalithaa, who went on a rollback mode soon after the shocking defeat, is also expected to exploit to her advantage her decision to reverse many of her controversial decisions.

She would hit the campaign trail from March 31 undertaking an extensive tour of the state till May 5, the last day for campaign. She also planned to address some meetings in Kerala, where her party is fielding some candidates.

Karunanidhi would set out on a whirlwind tour from the second week of April. Sonia Gandhi, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, chief ministers of Congress ruled states and several union ministers are expected to campaign for the DMK-led DPA.

DMK finalised the seat sharing talks with its allies much before the AIADMK, though the later had a head start.

With the two combines finalising the seats to be contested by them, arch rivals in the state's politics AIADMK and the DMK would clash directly in 105 seats for electoral honours.

Incidentally, the DMK is contesting 129 seats, the second lowest in the history of the party after the 117 in 1980, when also the DMK was in alliance with the Congress like now.

Jayalalithaa, known for taking risks, has played it safe by roping in the MDMK, DPI and JD(S) besides some minor parties and decided to contest 182 seats, the highest for the party since it was founded by late M G Ramachandran in 1973.

Both the DMK and the AIADMK have had their share of impressive success rates in the past. In 1970, DMK contested 203 seats and came out successful in 184. Likewise, the AIADMK, which contested 140 seats in 2001, won 132 seats. These are considered records in the state's electoral history.

In contrast, AIADMK, by putting up 182 candidates, had disapproved the coalition idea, though it was a constituent of the Vajpayee led government at the centre.

Interestingly, both the fronts had been named similar. While the DMK-led front retained its "Democratic Progressive Alliance" tag coined for the Lok Sabha polls, the AIADMK had recently named the combine led by it as "Democratic Peoples Alliance", making it a fight between two DPAs.

AIADMK was keen to have an alliance with the Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam (DMDK) floated by actor-turned politician Vijaykant but it could not accept his condition for a share in power.

The BJP, isolated from both the major fronts, is making frantic efforts to align with Vijaykant, but the later is said to be reluctant, as he feared loss of minority votes if his fledgeling party aligned with the Saffron party.

BJP is also working out an alliance with the Janata Party, led by Dr Subramanian Swamy, and some caste outfits.
National parties barring the Congress, CPI-M and the CPI, seem not favoured by the regional parties, who have been holding a sway over the electorate from 1967 onwards.

There were no offers of alliance to parties like BSP, Nationalist Congress and Republican Party of India by any parties. However, these parties have insignificance presence in the state.

First Published: Mar 26, 2006 14:51 IST