It is election time in Vellore and leaders of various parties are hitting the district to campaign for their candidates. Having missed the Lok Sabha elections in April-May due to alleged use of money to subvert the poll process, the constituency will go to vote on August 5.
However, a key factor that is missing in this polls is the mention of national leaders for the northern constituency in Tamil Nadu. Neither the AIADMK nor the DMK seem to be in a mood to invoke their national partners, BJP or Congress, to woo voters in their favour. Leaders and cadre view this poll as a regional battle rather than a national one.
During the April 24 polls, AIADMK, as part of the BJP-led alliance, had invoked Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the Lok Sabha polls and explained the achievements of the NDA government. It had backed the Centre’s proposed projects, including Salem-Chennai eight lane express highway project, which were vehemently opposed by locals.
Milk and Dairy Development Minister KT Rajenthira Bhalaji even went on to call Modi as “daddy”. “Modi is our daddy. India’s daddy,” said Bhalaji during a poll campaign in Virudhunagar district.
However, now the scenario looks different, with no national leaders being mentioned.
An AIADMK worker in Vellore said this was because the BJP had abandoned the AIADMK after the polls.
“We expected that we would at least get a minister of state position for our sole MP, OP Raveendranath Kumar. But it went in vain. Also, we understood that there is a strong anti-Modi wave in the state because of which we could not perform well in the Lok Sabha polls,” he said.
Another worker, who was in the street campaigning in Thorapadi, said that now is not time to add the number of MPs, “but to prove that AIADMK still has the support of the people”.
“We performed badly in the Lok Sabha polls, but still managed to be in power with the help of the victory we got in the bypolls. So, we have to extend the support base,” he said.
However, AIADMK spokesperson RM Babu Murugavel denied any hard feelings with the BJP, and said that Chief Minister Edapaddi Palaniswami has been reiterating “the support we have at the Centre”.
“Since it is not an election to elect the Prime Minister, we ask people to look at who we want for this constituency. If they vote for DMK, it would be added to the 37 MPs, but if AIADMK gets a chance here, there is more scope to bring welfare schemes. The scope we mean is only with the help of the Centre and it is indirectly meant,” Murugavel said.
On the other hand, even before the Lok Sabha polls campaign started, DMK leader MK Stalin had proposed then-Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s name as the opposition’s Prime Ministerial candidate and had claimed that only he had the ability to defeat the ‘fascist’ forces.
But, in Vellore, he is singing a different tune — interacting with traders, vendors and the public and taking selfies with them.
Though he was sharp in criticising the state government for dancing to the tunes of the Centre, he also continued to point out the struggles and work done by the 37MPs in the last couple of months.
However, he has abstained from uttering a word about Rahul Gandhi.
DMK cadre said that they have nothing to mention about the Congress party since their party itself is with no heads. Rahul Gandhi had resigned after the poll defeat, and the party has not announced a leader since.
“Now, we want to control the damage done by the Income Tax department and other agencies over the alleged use of money for election. Also, if we mention about the Congress party, it would not add any advantage here. So we are not mentioning about them,” a worker said.
A senior leader in DMK, who did not want to be named said they did not want to invoke national leaders because now is the time to prove DMK’s individual support and the lone seat was not going to make any change in the alliance at the national level. “If we can get this single seat, we will be able to prove that people only believe DMK and not the AIADMK,” he said.
Another factor that could affect the AIADMK in Vellore, which has a considerable amount of Muslim population, is the lone MP OP Raveendranath Kumar’s support to the triple talaq bill in Lok Sabha, which is likely to play a major role in the election. The bill earlier was opposed by former chief minister J Jayalalithaa.
In damage control mode, the party has been offering solaces, with Chief Minister Palaniswami recalling announcements made by his government for the Muslim community.
He said that state has provided the Haj pilgrim subsidy to 3,769 people last year and to 4,387 this year. He also said that the government has given about 5,145 metric tonnes of rice for preparing the Ramzan porridge.