CHENNAI: Campaigning for the high-stakes December 21 bypoll to RK Nagar constituency which fell vacant after the death of J Jayalalithaa, came to an end today, with the election being seen as a litmus test for the AIADMK-led Tamil Nadu government.
AIADMK coordinator O Panneerselvam and co-coordinator K Palaniswami, DMK working president M K Stalin and sidelined AIADMK leader T T V Dhinakaran had hit a blazing campaign trail to ensure victory for their respective candidates.
It is the first election to be held in the 'post Jayalalithaa era', and necessitated following her death last December.
The bypolls will be seen as a report card of the 17-month-old AIADMK government, which itself underwent a tumultuous phase dominated by a rebellion and patch-up involving O Panneerselvam.
Chief Minister K Palaniswami and deputy Chief Minister O Pannerselvam urged voters to elect Madhusudhnanan to take forward the work initiated by Jayalalithaa.
In a joint statement, the leaders recalled that the late leader served people with a "motherly" attitude and that she had many plans for the constituency as its MLA.
People of RK Nagar were aware of her developmental work for the constituency, which was being taken forward by the ruling AIADMK, they said, while pointing out that this was the first hustings faced by AIADMK in her absence.
"Madhusudhanan will aid the government in implementing every other welfare measure with the blessings of Amma", they added.
Jayalalithaa is addressed as Amma, meaning mother in Tamil, by her supporters.
Stalin, on his part, vowed to unravel the 'mystery' behind the late AIADMK supremo's demise and assured to put behind bars those 'found responsible' for her death in the event of DMK coming to power.
During one of his stopovers during the campaign today, he said there was a "mystery on how Jayalalithaa passed away and what kind of (medical) treatment was provided" to her during her 75-day hospitalisation, as he dismissed as an 'eyewash' the inquiry ordered by the state government into her death.
"The first job of the DMK rule will be to find out who is responsible for Jayalalithaa's death and lock them up in prison," Stalin, Leader of the Opposition in the state assembly, said.
The campaign saw old rivals Stalin and MDMK founder Vaiko share the stage for the first time in many years. The opposition is putting up a united show in a bid to snatch victory in this city segment.
There were also allegations of money distribution, with DMK levelling charges against the ruling AIADMK.
Many opposition parties, including the Congress, the VCK and the Left have backed DMK candidate N Maruthu Ganesh.
Dhinakaran, who fell out of favour with Palaniswami and also lost the battle for the party's 'Two Leaves' symbol to the latter, is fighting as an independent and has expressed confidence that he can spring a surprise against the AIADMK's E Madhusudhanan, as well as the DMK.
With 59 candidates in the fray, the bypoll is virtually confined to old warhorse Madhusudhanan, DMK's greenhorn Maruthu Ganesh and Dhinakaran.
Polling will be held on December 21 while the votes will be taken up for counting on December 24.
Meanwhile, with campaigning coming to an end, the Election Commission has now barred all other related activities as is the rule.
Liquor shops in the constituency will remain closed from 5 pm today till 5 PM on the polling day, as well as on December 24.