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Tamil Nadu is set for another 'buy-poll'

By A Ganesh Nadar
December 16, 2009 11:57 IST
J Jayalalithaa's All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam has stayed away from by-elections in Tamil Nadu since its defeat in the assembly polls in 2006. However, in the forthcoming by-elections for Thiruchendur and Vandavasi constituencies on December 19, the party will take on the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam with a sole motive.

Setting its sights especially on Thiruchendur constituency, the AIADMK wants to teach a lesson to the DMK's Anita Radhakrishnan, who deserted the AIADMK to join hands with its arch rival in the state. Radhakrishnan had won Thiruchendur in 2006 as an AIADMK candidate. However, the former AIADMK minister and then district president was later dismissed unceremoniously from the party along with comedian and Mylapore legislator SV Sekhar.

Ironically, the three key candidates in this election -- representing the DMK, AIADMK and Vijayakanth's Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam respectively -- have feminine prefixes to their names. DMK candidate is 'Anita' Radhakrishnan, the AIADMK's is called 'Amman' Narayanan while the DMDK candidate is 'Gomathi' Ganesan.

The Election Commission, meanwhile, will install two Electronic Voting Machines in each booth in Thiruchendur, thanks to the 30 independent candidates who are also in the fray. Despite the model code of conduct in place, the flow of money is evident.

At 3 in the morning, there was a knock on the door of a farmer. There were 18 unfamiliar faces surrounding two familiar ones. Even before the yawning farmer could get to his senses, four 1000-rupee notes were thrust into his hands. "There are four votes in your house. Vote for us." Thereafter they were gone as silently as they came.

One panchayat president claimed that in his village, plain-clothed policemen came along with the money distributors. In another village, the village headman accompanied the booty.

State election commissioner Naresh Gupta has been quoted as saying in local dailies, 'In other states they ask for infrastructure when candidates come canvassing. Here they ask for money. For short-term gains, they lose sight of the long term. It's a sad state of affairs.'

However, villagers have a different viewpoint.

"Anyway we will never see them till the next elections. They are not accessible to us after this. What's wrong in taking money from them? It's our money. It's the money they make by selling our river sand and looting our treasury," said Alagesan, a farmer.

The village barber had a different view. "We must take money from the two main parties and vote for Vijayakanth (DMDK) just to watch the fun," he said.

A young college boy claimed, "I saw them. They had 1000-rupee notes tied around their waist. When the village headman comes with them, who will refuse?"

"I was not at home when they came. Later I went to their office and collected my money. They told me that the other party would give me Rs 1500 and then they would come back and give another Rs 2000. That works out to Rs 4500. It is enough for my expenses for two months," said a shopkeeper.

Late evening saw an entourage of more than 50 cars. DMK President M Karunanidhi's daughter and Rajya Sabha MP Kanimozhi had come asking for votes. She said emphatically, "We are giving three eggs every week to children who are part of the noon meal scheme (started by the former chief minister, the late K Kamaraj). If Kamaraj had been alive, he would have appreciated us."

The crowd cheered her on and Kanimozhi had clearly connected. After all, Thiruchendur is a Nadar-dominated constituency. And what better way to impress the Nadars than with a reference to their only chief minister.

During the Lok Sabha elections, the Samathuva Makkal Katchi had polled 40,000 votes in neighbouring Tirunelveli district. In Thiruchendur, the Sarathkumar-led party would definitely make an impression. Though the actor-turned-politician calls his political party broad-based and meant for all sections of society, his party is generally identified as a party for Nadars.

Sarathkumar has announced his support to the DMK and his cadre has been campaigning for the party. The mood in upbeat in the DMK camp. Supporters of Karunanidhi's eldest son MK Alagiri are confident of the party winning the two seats under his guidance.

What remains to be seen is who will have the last laugh on Saturday when the votes are cast.

A Ganesh Nadar in Thiruchendur