The run-up to the 2019 Lok Sabha polls in Tamil Nadu was marked by a mishmash of cash, cancellation, and fickle alliances. Political parties began chalking out strategies and initiated alliance talks once the polls were announced on March 10.
The AIADMK allied with the BJP, the PMK and the DMDK who were given five, seven, and four seats respectively. The DMK followed the convention of sharing 50 per cent of seats with their allies. Of the 40 seats, Thol Thirumavalavan’s Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK) and the two Left parties were given two seats each. Vaiko’s MDMK, IUMK, KMDK, and IJK were given one seat each. The Congress got nine seats.
When poll alliances were being forged, the DMDK found itself in the midst of a controversy. DMK treasurer Durai Murugan announced that the DMDK had been holding talks with both the Dravidian parties. Subsequently, DMDK treasurer Premalatha made a scathing attack on DMK leaders, and later allied with the AIADMK.
The heat shifted from Chennai to the districts with political heavyweights like Kanimozhi, Anbumani Ramadoss, Karti Chidambaram, Tamilisai Soundararajan, H Raja, and Union minister Pon Radhakrishnan hitting the campaign trail.
The handing over of the mantle to the kin is something that is synonymous with politics. The DMK gave a ticket to Stalin’s sister MK Kanimozhi in Thoothukudi; party treasurer Durai Murugan’s son Kathir Anand is fielded from Vellore; former DMK minister V Thangapandian’s daughter and former MLA Thangam Thennarasu’s sister Tamizhachi Thangapandian is contesting from Chennai South; and former minister Arcot Veerasamy’s son Kalanidhi Veerasamy is contesting from Chennai North.
Until the demise of former chief minister J Jayalalithaa, the DMK was criticized for bringing its heirs into politics. However, this time around, the AIADMK too seems to have followed the DMK’s footsteps. Deputy chief minister O Panneerselvam’s son Ravindranathkumar; former minister PH Pandian’s son Manoj Pandian; former AIADMK mayor VV Rajan Chellappa’s son VVR Rajsathyan; and minister Jayakumar’s son Jayavardhan have been given tickets this election. For the DMK, party leader MK Stalin’s son Udhayanidhi Stalin, who is also an actor, came out of the Arivalayam and toured the state to campaign for the DMK and its allies.
During the campaign tour, the political scene hit a new low as chief minister Edappadi K Palaniswami and opposition leader MK Stalin passed comments on one another. The CM cast aspersions on the death of M Karunanidhi and said Stalin did take his father to a foreign country for treatment. Stalin shot back by raising the Kodanad estate murder issue. The attention shifted as national leaders, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress president Rahul Gandhi, reached the state for campaign.
It was comic relief and embarrassment in equal measure as speech translators of major leaders played truant. Troll and meme makers had a field time. Of all translators, senior Congress leader Thangabalu was trolled most for his work during Rahul Gandhi’s public address in Kanyakumari.
For social media activism, the IT wings of opposition Dravidian parties set up ‘go back Modi’ hashtags whenever PM Modi visited the state.
Cash seizures hogged headlines throughout electioneering. In spite of allegations that the ruling party at the Centre was blatantly using the Income Tax (I-T) department to hem in opposition parties, the raids continued unabated. The latest was the raid on DMK leader and Thoothukudi candidate Kanimozhi’s rented residence in the constituency. There was mild tension outside the residence as people resorted to sloganeering. The sleuths could not recover anything from there. Almost at the same time, the poll officials tried to raid the election office of the AMMK party in Andipatti in Theni district. The police had to fire four rounds in the air as an angry mob held the officials captive. Poll officials but seized ₹1.4 crore from a commercial establishment, reportedly owned by an AMMK man.
The Election Commission of India cancelled the election to the Vellore constituency on April 16 after huge cash seizures earlier.
The ECI appointed Ashutosh Shukla as the Director General of Police (Elections) and asked DGP TK Rajendran to refrain from election duty after unconfirmed reports said the raids in Vellore were on his directions. Also, the DMK had given a list of names of officials to the ECI who they thought were blatantly supporting the ruling part. Apart from the I-T raids, poll officials also raided the MLA hostel in Chennai including the room of revenue minister RB Udhayakumar. Though no seizures were revealed officially, poll officials had summoned Udhayakumar for an inquiry.
Creating more heartburns, television channels aired poll surveys predicting a clean sweep to the DMK in the State and a win for the BJP at the Centre.
On the last day of the poll campaign, DMK leader Stalin played the sentiment card to woo the voters in Tiruvarur, a constituency formerly held by DMK patriarch M Karunanidhi. Chief minister Edappadi K Palaniswami also left his campaign vehicle and hit the streets, meeting people and occasionally sipping tea from wayside shops. In Karur, there was a clash between the DMK and AIADMK cadres. The police used mild force to disperse workers.
Late on Tuesday, the police filed a case against Karur Lok Sabha candidate Jothimani and Aravakuruchi bypolls candidate Senthil Balaji on charges of deterring public servants from discharging their duties.Look back at campaign throws up cash, cancellation, hate speeches