With the political parties having begun their whirlwind hectic poll campaign braving the scorching sun, unsuccessful cadres and their supporters of both DMK and AIADMK took to streets venting their ire over the choice of candidates. There are so many firsts in the May 16 State Assembly Polls. The unsuccessful aspirants and their followers came out openly against the selection of candidates. It was unheard of in the DMK.
Though the DMK, which was the first to conclude the alliance pact, it delayed the list of candidates. A day after the DMK released its list of candidates for the assembly elections, protests broke out all over the state. Vociferous protests were witnessed at Nagapattinam, Alangudi in Pudukottai District, Anaicut constituencies. A large number of party men laid siege to the local DMK office and tried to lock the office. Some of the sulking party men held black flags. Expressing disappointment over the selection of Sathish, Shankar of Anavayal made an attempt to immolate himself at Sandhaipettai.
The protesting followers demanded that the high command should go with the pulse of the cadre and nominate local candidates in constituencies. The posters appeared in different parts of Tiruverumbur in Tiruchi District against the nomination of Anbil Mahesh Poyyamozhi, son of late Anbil Poyyamozhi, from the constituency.
Attempting to cool tempers, DMK chief M Karunanidhi, in his letter to the cadres said small internal differences must not be allowed to stand in the way of the party’s victory. Quoting the party founder CN Annadurai, he said, those who couldn’t get their seats must ‘wait till their turn comes’. “This is an election in which we have to win a large number of seats and provide a government that works for the welfare of the Tamil people,” he said. This is for the first time that the DMK has witnessed such a large magnitude of displeasure over the choice of candidates. These protests have jolted the DMK higher-ups and they are attempting to do damage control exercises. This time it is fielding candidates in 175 constituencies, leaving 59 to allies. Facing a virtual rebellion over the selection of candidates in some constituencies, the DMK has replaced a few of its original nominees.
With six of the party’s allies including the dissident DMDK MLAs contesting under the DMK symbol ‘rising sun’, the number of candidates under that symbol will be in the fray for 180 seats. This is the highest number of seats the DMK is contesting after the 2001 Assembly elections when it fought in 183 constituencies. In the 2006 Assembly polls, it fielded nominees in 132 seats, while it fielded 124 candidates in the 2011 Assembly elections. This time direct fight with AIADMK is in 169 constituencies.
The AIADMK took a lead by announcing the list for 227 constituencies leaving 7 for its small allies. But it has so far changed 26 candidates since the release of the list following complaints poured from party men and police intelligence sources. The BJP, PWF and PMK too have announced their candidates' list without any fuzz.
DMK has been accusing AIADMK of mobilising crowds by paying money and freebies. “It was the DMK which has specialised in this art by offering biriyani, liquor to people who are ready to attend its meeting,” counters an AIADMK leader. For other parties, some enterprising event managers, who specialise in political events, are offering ‘rent-a-crowd’ packages. “Their professional looking brochures with specific rates such as 600 each for men, 800 for women and 1,200 for students to attend the rally— the rates varying based on demand and supply. They are ready to supply 10,000 people in Chennai, 5,000 outside Chennai -a fully paid and hired crowd,” said BJP leader. But it is a vocational offer for the student community to make money for their studies.
All the big parties have set targets for district secretaries to bring in the crowds (up to 20,000 people each) and locals are wooed with cash and food packets and transported in buses and vans to the venue. While leaders have directly herded crowds to venues so far, outsourcing this job to agencies seems to be a new trend.. n