'Shabash! Sariyana Potti' in Tamil Nadu
Over 55 million voters in Tamil Nadu will Thursday decide the fate of 845 contestants in all the 39 Lok Sabha constituencies that will vote on a single day. The multi-cornered contest can be best described by a famous dialogue in a Tamil movie "Shabash! Sariyana Potti", meaning "good, excellent contest!"
Arraigned on the battle field are the AIADMK, DMK-led front, the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) comprising the DMDK, PMK, MDMK and others, the Left Front, the Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).
The main players however are the ruling AIADMK and its arch rival DMK.
Though Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa does not face any major threat to her leadership or to her AIADMK government, the election result will be like a report card by the people on her rule since May 2011, with the assembly elections just two years away.
Nurturing national ambitions, Jayalalithaa decided to go it alone in all the 39 seats from Tamil Nadu and one in Puducherry, dumping the two communist parties at the last moment.
A bad performance will be a big loss of face for Jayalalithaa as her party members have been terming her the next prime minister.
The AIADMK had secured 22.9 percent of the votes in the 2009 election. The party is confident of crossing the finishing line first this time.
In the case of the DMK, a decent show is important not only for bargaining for positions at the centre - in case of a fractured verdict - but also to settle the rivalry between M.K. Stalin and his brother M.K. Alagiri.
The DMK has joined hands with two Dalit and two Muslim outfits.
"For Stalin, this election is crucial as he would like to consolidate his position inside and outside the party. This will be the testing ground for the 2016 assembly elections," Ramu Manivannan, professor of political science in the University of Madras, told IANS.
In 2009, the DMK secured 25 percent of votes. The dent that Alagiri makes in this election remains to be seen.
Similarly, the political future of DMDK's Vijaykant hinges on factors like the party winning a considerable number of seats and joining a BJP-led government in Delhi, Manivannan said.
The 61-year-old Vijaykant finds himself in choppy political waters with many of his legislators deserting him.
Standing alone in 2009, DMDK secured 10.3 percent of the votes.
If one includes the vote share of the BJP's alliance partners MDMK and PMK, the NDA commands at least on paper an impressive 22.01 percent.
The Congress is fighting a lone battle with a couple of its leading commanders like P. Chidambaram and G.K. Vasan deciding to sit out.
For parties like PMK and MDMK, the election is crucial as they have to secure at least six percent votes so as to have the status of a recognised political party.
PMK leader Anbumani Ramadoss is fighting the general election for the first time in his career. Earlier, he was a member of the Rajya Sabha.
Thus, looking at the poll scenario, one is reminded of the famous dialogue in the Tamil movie "Vanjikottai Valliban" (The Youth from Vanji Fort) by villain P.S. Veerappa, who says: "Shabash! Sariyana Potti" (meaning good, excellent contest!)
The total electorate is 55,042,876 (males: 27,518,373, females: 27,521,163, others 3,341). Nearly 13 percent of the voters are in the age group of 18-25 years.
(Posted on 22-04-2014)