CHENNAI: For nearly three decades, there has only been two contenders for the post of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister — the incumbent Chief Minister and AIADMK general secretary J Jayalalithaa, who is just completing her third term, and the DMK president and five-time Chief Minister M Karunanidhi.
This time, however, there is no dearth of chief ministerial candidates.
Apart from the veterans, the ones in fray now are DMDK founder-leader Vijayakant, the Captain who was in the look-out for a team that would accept him as the leader. He now has the four-party People’s Welfare Alliance (PWA) for a team, and is the chief minister candidate for the group.
Recently, Vijayakant had made his intention clear, saying he wanted to be the king instead of the kingmaker the DMK wanted him to be. This was one of the pre-conditions for aligning with the PWA constituents who accepted their role as kingmakers who would make Captain the king.
Another party adamant on having its own leader as chief minister candidate is the Pattali Makkal Katchi. The party founder S Ramadoss’ son and former union minister Anbumani Ramadoss MP has been campaigning for about a year, holding meets across the State including the hi-tech campaign at Vandalur near Chennai where he presented his plans for the future of the State.
Anbumani, his father and their party believe that the Dharmapuri MP is the right person to lead the State.
The last is the film director Seeman, whose party, the Naam Tamilar Katchi, has declared him as the CM candidate. On a solo trip, the party has no alliance constraints and announced its candidates for all 234 constituencies with him as the CM candidate.
Recalling the history of CM candidates, the political analyst R Muthukumar said it became a serious issue for the first time in 1980 when the DMK and Congress shared equal number of seats during the Assembly elections.
At that time MP Subramanian was the TNCC president, while R Venkataraman was the senior leader in Tamil Nadu. It became a tussle on who would become the chief minister after the election, and the issue went all the way up to the party leader and Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi.
She announced that Karunanidhi would be the chief minister. In an anti-climax, the coalition suffered a drubbing at the hustings and AIADMK founder MG Ramachandran became the Chief Minister for the second consecutive time.
In 1989, Rajiv Gandhi announced the senior leader GK Moopanar as the chief ministerial candidate of the Third Front, perhaps the last such serious contender for the post outside the Dravidian majors. But the front failed to win power, and Moopanar became the leader of the opposition instead.
In the case of the two Dravidian majors, Muthukumar added, there had never been any doubt about their chief ministerial candidates.
On the impact such a campaign would have on the electorate, he said the PMK would have a focus on its campaign, especially in areas where the party has no strong network.
But Vijayakant has always spoken about what he would do for the people if elected to power, which indicated that he had always nursed the ambition.