It looks like the assembly by-elections in Tamil Nadu is a case of too many coincidences. A closer look at the candidates fighting it out reveals that in three among the 18 constituencies set for by-polls, the Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam’s (AMMK) candidate shares his name with an independent candidate, but also the election symbol allotted for the independent candidate is the much debated pressure cooker. The AMMK had claimed ownership of the symbol, but had to settle for the gift box.
However, the pressure cooker has made its way in the assembly polls along with the uncanny similarity in names. In the Harur assembly seat in Dharmapuri district, the candidate of AMMK is Murugan and he has a namesake — an independent candidate — who is fighting in the symbol. Similarly, in Thiruvavur, where the fight is intense, after the passing away of DMK supremo M Karunanidhi in August 2018, the AMMK candidate and independent candidate are two Kamarajs, with the latter is contesting in the common symbol. But in Pappireddipatti, the case gets more curious. Apart from two Rajendrans fighting it out between AMMK and independent candidate, there are an AIADMK candidate and two independent candidates — all three named Govindasamy.
Similar names is a popular strategy used by political parties to cut votes.
However, Satyabrata Sahoo, the state Chief Electoral Officer, said that due procedures were followed in the allotment of symbol. “An independent candidate can give their choice of three symbols while contesting. If there is another candidate claiming the same symbol, it is allotted after drawing of lots. So, in this case, the pressure cooker would have been allotted following the due formalities,” he said, adding that the Election Commission can do very little about similar names.
The constituencies have a significant role to play in the elections. Pappireddipetti and Harur are part of Dharmapuri Lok Sabha constituency and in Pappireddipatti, the AIADMK-led alliance has fair chance in its favour, with the popularity of the Pataali Makkal Katchi. Thiruvarur, a stronghold of DMK, is also equally important for the AIADMK as it is a prestigious seat.
In Tamil Nadu, 22 Assembly seats are vacant and 18 are going for by polls on April 18, along with the one-phase LS elections in the state. The AIADMK has 114 seats and the DMK-led opposition is at 98, making it a do or die battle for the parties that need to have a majority of 117 seats in the 235-member Assembly.
18 dissident AIADMK MLAs were disqualified after they switched to TTV Dhinakaran’s faction, in 2017, months after the passing away of former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa.