Around 58.2 million voters will be eligible to decide the electoral fortunes of 3,776 candidates (320 being women) in the multi-cornered legislative assembly election in Tamil Nadu state in India on Monday (16th).
There are 234 seats in the assembly but the polling for one, Avarakurichi, Karur, has been postponed by a week by the Election Commission of India, owing to the amount of money seized from the constituency in recent days. The results for the other 233 seats will be announced on Thursday; counting for Aravakurichi will be on Saturday.
For decades, the winning combine has been led by either the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) or DMK parties. This will be the first time other politically significant fronts are contesting separately from the traditional duo.
There are a little over 66,000 polling stations and 107,210 electronic voting machines, including reserves. Of the 234 seats, 42 are reserved for scheduled caste candidates and three for scheduled tribes.
Dr Radhakrishnan Nagar in this city, where Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa is contesting, has 45 candidates, highest number in the state. The constituencies of Arcot, Gudalur and Mayiladuthurai have the lowest number of candidates, at eight each. The largest assembly constituency in terms of electorate is Sholinganallur, in this city, with a little over 600,000 voters. The smallest is Kilvelur, with 163,000.
AIADMK chief and incumbent chief minister J Jayalalithaa and DMK supremo, M Karunanidhi, veteran ex-CM, lead the list of candidates. Other major ones include Karunanidhi's son and former deputy CM, M K Stalin; Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam (DMDK) chief and CM-candidate, Vijayakanth; and the CM-candidate of the Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK), Anbumani Ramadoss.
The AIADMK has fielded its candidates in 227 seats, the first time it is contesting more than 200 on its own; its allies are in the other seven, and contesting on its poll symbol. The DMK has fielded 180 candidates, the DMDK 104, Congress 41, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) 188, Bahujan Samaj Party 158, the Communist parties 25 each and Nationalist Congress Party 20. There are 1,566 candidates contesting independently.
The DMK has aligned with the Congress, two Muslim parties and some smaller outfits. Another front is led by the DMDK and also comprises the CPI-M, CPI, VCK, TMC and MDMK.
The BJP leads another front, with smaller outfits. PMK, once a partner in the BJP-led NDA at the Centre, is also going it alone.
Jayalalithaa is seeking a mandate for another term, saying it not only fulfilled several freebie schemes (mixer/grinder, fans, laptops, cattle) announced in its 2011 poll manifesto but implemented several others (subsidized canteen/cement/bottled water and others).
DMK supremo M Karunanidhi, 93, is seeking election to the assembly for a record 13th time and as a CM-aspirant for a 10th time. He has never been defeated since he started contesting elections in 1957. He and Jayalalithaa are arch rivals, as are their parties, each prophesying doom if the other is elected to power. Yet, never after 1984 has an incumbent government ever been re-elected, and it is one or the other who has been in power.
The other fronts are taking on AIADMK and DMK as synonymous with corruption, misuse of power and bad governance. Pre-election surveys predict victory for either AIADMK or DMK.
AIADMK has stuck to its tested formula of offering freebies. The party has promised free mobile phones for all ration card holders, 50 per cent subsidy for purchase of scooters by women, free power up to 100 units and so forth, beside continuation of all such current schemes if voted back to power. It and the DMK consciously attack only each other, as if the other parties do not exist.
All the parties have also promised total prohibition on liquor, which currently generates Rs 30,000 crore in annual revenue for the state, a key source for the diverse freebies. The election commission has just sent a notice to both AIADMK and DMK, asking them to detail how they'd fund the schemes promised in their manifestoes, Indian media reports.