Tamil Nadu all set to vote for LS polls, that saw BJP straining every nerve

Coimbatore, the hub of western Tamil Nadu is the most keenly watched constituency in the state and BJP's K Annamalai is slogging to emerge victorious battling against Dravidian giants the DMK and AIADMK.
Last Updated : 18 April 2024, 09:22 IST
Last Updated : 18 April 2024, 09:22 IST

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Chennai: Tamil Nadu is all set to vote on April 19 for the Lok Sabha polls, that was marked by fierce campaigns and acrimonious debates, and a never seen before kind of spirited fight put up by the BJP, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to gain a foothold in the Dravidian land in 2024 was a striking feature.

Elections to 39 Lok Sabha seats in the state will be held on Friday and the fate of 950 candidates will be decided by about 6.23 crore voters who are set to exercise their franchise in nearly 68,000 polling stations.

The election mood set in pretty early in the state, in January, with the commencement of repeated visits by Modi who combined development and honour for Tamil language and culture as his main election plank that also had the key element of denouncing DMK-Congress over alleged corruption and 'parivarvad' politics. The state witnessed intense campaigning for nearly a month starting from March.

Coimbatore, the hub of western Tamil Nadu is the most keenly watched constituency in the state and BJP's K Annamalai is slogging to emerge victorious battling against Dravidian giants the DMK and AIADMK. He also faces challenge from the Tamil nationalist, Naam Tamilar Katchi in the four-way contest with anti-DMK-Congress votes split into three.

In his electoral parting shot Annamalai asserted 'Dravidian politics' is not needed anymore in Tamil Nadu and described himself as a son and younger brother of people.

Arguably, the 2024 LS polls is the only one in recent history in which the BJP set the tone for campaign discourse by mounting attacks rather than being in defence by coming up with disclosures on Katchatheevu issue besides vehemently taking up other matters.

Katchatheevu issue led to a slanging match between the Saffron party, led by a fierce Annamalai and the DMK-Congress combine.

While the BJP alleged betrayal by the DMK-Congress, the Dravidian and grand old party posed questions on 'Chinese incursions.' Modi's campaign also saw Katchatheevu issue getting prominence to a great degree and he sought to pin down the DMK-Congress saying fishermen now pay the price for their betrayal.

The PM also dwelt on the drug menace, following the arrest of expelled office-bearer of the DMK, Jaffer Sadiq by the NCB and the threat to 'eradicate Sanatana Dharma.' In effect, Modi's campaign was exhaustive in Tamil Nadu and he has addressed rallies in constituencies including Chennai, Coimbatore, Vellore and Tirunelveli.

A PM visiting TN nine times before a LS election is undoubtedly a first in the state's history. It demonstrated the BJP's resolve to break the electoral jinx it faces in the Dravidian land, almost on its own, with the support of only fewer allies, whose influence is confined to select regions. The Pattali Makkal Katchi, the BJP's key ally has focused its energies in Dharmapuri, where Sowmiya Anbumani is in the fray.

DMK's Dayanidhi Maran (Central Chennai), A Raja (Nilgiris), Kanimozhi (Thoothukudi), BJP's L Murugan (Nilgiris), Tamilisai Soundararajan (South Chennai), former Chief Minister O Panneerselvam (Ramanathapuram), Congress party's Karti Chidambaram (Sivaganga) and AIADMK's J Jayavardhan (South Chennai) and AMMK chief TTV Dhinakaran are among the prominent candidates.

Barring the 2014 victory of BJP veteran Pon Radhakrishnan from Kanyakumari segment, the Saffron party won in Tamil Nadu, since 1998, only when it aligned with either the AIADMK or DMK, the Dravidian twins.

South Chennai, Tirunelveli, Coimbatore, Nilgiris and Vellore are the seats where the BJP nominees have gone the extra mile to convince voters.

DMK president and Chief Minister M K Stalin, the star campaigner of his party, led the campaign on the themes of social justice, his regime's welfare measures and 'dangers' the nation faced due to the BJP, which has wrecked fiscal federalism.

He often described the polls as the second independence movement to free the nation from the BJP's 'divisive politics' and repeated the 'electoral bond scam' to claim that it has unmasked the corrupt face of the BJP. The Saffron party will do away with reservation and change the Constitution and it is allergic to social justice were among the allegations he made in his campaigns.

A key focus of the DMK's campaign was on its 'battle' to get funds from Centre including for flood relief. Stalin and his party leaders said not a rupee was given by the Centre and Nirmala Sitharaman's claim of Rs 5,000 crore central assistance to tackle the situation arising out of floods was actually the state's own borrowing from banks merely channelled through the Union government. Stalin throughout his campaign did not spare the main opposition AIADMK.

Udhayanidhi Stalin, son of CM Stalin and a Minister crisscrossed the state, held roadshows and targeted the BJP on a slew of issues including the 'Madurai AIIMS being a non-starter.' When Udhayanidhi repeatedly attacked PM as '29 paisa Modi' as the Centre returned only '29 paisa out of every one rupee paid as tax' to the Union government by the state, Annamalai countered saying no other state received as much funds as Tamil Nadu from the Centre and if he did not stop the 29 paisa jibe, his party will refer to him as 'Ganja Udhayanidhi' as the contraband is 'available widely' in the state.

AIADMK general secretary Edappadi K Palaniswami was among the early birds on poll landscape and he addressed a rally of ally SDPI in January and said there is no need to project a 'PM face' to seek votes.

The main opposition party's campaign was steered by Palaniswami, former CM and leader of opposition who took on the ruling DMK over every single issue that mattered, including alleged collapse of law and order and drug menace.

Towards the end of the campaign, he fiercely attacked the BJP for being discriminatory on the basis of 'caste and religion.' When Annamalai claimed AIADMK would disappear following polls, without losing cool, Palaniswami in a repartee said voters will teach them a lesson and no force could touch the party that has stormed several struggles.

Published 18 April 2024, 09:22 IST

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