Ruling AIADMK and DMK are locked in a fierce contest in the RK Nagar Assembly segment here which goes to the bypolls on December 21, with allegations of distribution of cash for votes flying thick and fast. Stalin, addressing poll meetings at RK Nagar on Sunday, alleged distribution of money by both the ruling AIADMK and sidelined leader T T V Dhinakaran. Senior AIADMK leader and Lok Sabha Deputy Speaker M Thambidurai speaking to reporters dismissed DMK’s charges as borne out of “fear of poll defeat.” BJP Tamil Nadu unit chief Tamilisai Soundararajan in a tweet said she met special poll officer Vikram Batra and “registered our strong protest against crores of cash for votes and huge violation of election code of conduct by T T V Dinakaran, AIADMK and DMK.” She urged imediate action for a free and fair bypoll. Stalin, also submitted a petition to Batra alleging money distribution by the ruling AIAMDK and Dhinakaran’s group.
Demanding appropriate action, he also wanted candidates accused of giving money not to be allowed to contest polls. Poll authorities said that till December 11, 95 FIRs were filed over poll related violations/offences and 15 persons were remanded to judicial custody. As voting day nears, AIADMK and DMK have stepped up the campaign. DMK is going all out to wrest the seat from its arch rival after over two decades.
Addressing a series of meetings today, Stalin accused the ruling AIADMK of corruption, including ‘Gutkha scam.’He sought a decisive victory for DMK, which, he said, would be a marker for a regime change. On the cause for the bypoll, Stalin referred to Jayalalithaa’s death and said there were suspicions over it warranting a Commission of Inquiry. He quoted Apollo Hospital Chairman Prathap C Reddy’s reported remarks yesterday. Reddy had told reporters that as per “advise” the hospital did not reveal that Jayalalithaa was brought in a serious condition and that it would not be possible to control people’s emotions if the actual status was made known. Pointing this out, Stalin blamed Chief Minister K Palaniswami, his deputy O Panneerselvam and jailed leader V K Sasikala and asked why the late leader’s status was not disclosed at that time.
Despite DMK stepping up attack, AIADMK is unfazed and leaving no stone unturned to retain the seat. Palaniswami, Panneerselvam and Ministers are criss crossing congested lanes and by lanes to retain the seat won by Jayalalithaa last year for the second consecutive time. AIADMK is primarily seeking votes to continue the welfare schemes launched by Jayalalithaa. Palaniswami has also urged voters to elect party nominee Madhusudhanan, assuring houses for the downtrodden.
At the same time, AIADMK sidelined group, led by T T V Dhinakaran, is trying hard to prove to his rivals in mainstream AIADMK that he is the heir to Jayalalithaa’s welfare legacy. Dhinakaran, nephew of jailed leader V K Sasikala and contesting as an independent, is campaigning with vigour.
Bereft of the party flag and the popular two-leaves symbol, the pressure cooker now occupies pride of place in his campaign, with flags featuring it in the middle. The former MP’s (both lower and upper houses) supporters use a flag with a black stripe on top, white in middle and an embossing of cooker over it and red in bottom to canvass. BJP is also in the fray with senior State functionary Karu Nagarajan named as candidate.
Women supporters of parties lining up the streets with ‘aarthi’ to welcome candidates and showering flowers on them have become a routine feature now. Madusudanan, ruling AIADMK candidate, is also banking on his popularity in North Chennai, besides his party’s strength. DMK nominee Marudu Ganesh, also a local up and coming party functionary, has accused the ruling regime of graft and assures he will address people’s issues, all of which have been left “unaddressed” by the ruling party.
DMK has the advantage of support from allies, Congress and IUML, besides friendly outfits like the Left parties. Jayalalithaa won the seat by a 1.5 lakh votes in the 2015 bypoll. She retained it by a reduced margin of about 40,000 votes last year. From 1991 till the last year’s Assembly election, DMK has won the seat only once in 1996.
AIADMK cadres here feel the absence of Jayalalithaa, noted for her engaging and interactive style of campaign. DMK workers also miss their chief the persuasive pitch in chaste Tamil of their chief M Karunanidhi (who is not active in politics due to age-related ailments).
A constituency dominated by working classes,including fishermen, there are 2,28,234 voters in R K Nagar, of whom 1,10,903 are men, 1,17,232 women and 99 transgenders.