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Too many contradictions in Tamil Nadu politics

PTI | ByPapri Sri Raman, Indo-Asian News Service, Chennai
May 06, 2004 07:48 PM IST

The voters in Tamil Nadu are a confused lot. To begin with the contest is between a multitude of political parties. Then, the rapidity with which alliances are formed seems too opportunistic to be honest.

When Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Chief Minister J Jayalalitha shared a platform here to canvass for their Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-AIADMK alliance, it symbolised the contradictions in Tamil Nadu's electoral stage.

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The election battleground here is strewn with too many contradictions, leaving the voters utterly bemused ahead of the May 10 poll when they elect 39 members to the Lok Sabha.

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And there was no better manifestation of these contradictions than Wednesday when Vajpayee and Jayalalitha shared a platform after five long years.

The AIADMK is not a member of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and Jayalalitha has even refused to say if she will join the NDA before the election results are out.

It was the AIADMK chief who had pulled down the Vajpayee government in 1998 after first propping him up.

Trying to answer the question on why Jayalalitha deserted "a ship that was then not sinking", eminent historian Bipin Chandra had said: "Some ascribe her action to her volatile nature and fondness for intrigue."

The fondness for intrigue is still in evidence.

After seeking to befriend it, Jayalalitha has given the BJP the toughest seats in the state to contest.

At the other end of the spectrum are the Congress, which won only two seats in the last elections in 1999, and DMK. The two have come together to fight the polls after a gap of nearly 24 years.

Things were quite different in 1999.

Then the BJP, including candidates like Pon Radhakrishnan in Nagercoil and CP Radhakrishnan in Coimbatore, had the backing and support of DMK's extensive union based network in the industry-dense areas.

This time, neither of the Radhakrishnans have that luxury.

In North Chennai, BJP's Sukumaran Nambiar is pitted against veteran trade union leader CK Kuppusamy of the DMK.

In none of these three constituencies does the AIADMK have the presence to offer the BJP any support.

The fourth constituency in the BJP's basket is the Chidambaram reserved constituency where Vanniars constituting nearly 38 percent of the electorate and Dalits about 35 percent.

The Congress has won here five times, the DMK four and the PMK twice. Their combined strength is working against the BJP candidate here.

In Dharmapuri, the BJP has put up PT Elangovan, who joined it just a few weeks ago after quitting the PMK. With its strong concentration of Vanniar votes, Dharmapuri is a dicey proposition for the BJP.

Only the BJP's Mastar Mathan in Nilgiris has a relatively easy task.

The contradictions don't end here.

The Congress had split in Tamil Nadu in 1996 on the issue of allying with Jayalalithaa, who was then fighting charges of corruption.

The Tamil Maanila Congress (TMC), headed by GK Moopanar and former finance minister P Chidambaram, came into existence and won all 20 seats it contested in that election.

Now the TMC does not exist and Chidambaram has got the Congress ticket though he still continues to maintain that he has his own party, the Congress Jananayaka Peravai.

Eight years after 1996, the Congress faces the ruling AIADMK in nine of 10 seats given to it by DMK chief M Karunanidhi.

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