MADURAI: The 10 southern districts, contributing 25 per cent of the total 234 Assembly seats, had always played a vital role in deciding the majority for a party in forming a government. After the demise of two tall leaders — Karunanidhi and Jayalalithaa — the region is now open to the two Dravidian majors to fix their flag poles.Nearly 1.55 crore voters in as many as 58 constituencies from these districts will exercise their franchise today. Unlike other parts of the State, the polling pattern in southern districts will be unconventional and slightly strange in this election, say political observers.
AIADMK banks on the promises made in its manifesto
In the 2016 elections, the AIADMK won 31 of the total 58 seats, thus proving that the south has remained a bastion of the party since its inception. The party once again gets down to the lane, without its late supremo, but armed with the announcements of Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami.A senior leader from the party said, “Although there was some discontentment initially during the announcement of the candidature, now everything has been sorted out. Our manifesto promises six cylinders to every household, Rs 1,500 for every woman family head, and free washing machines, among other. These have boosted the morale of the cadre to work towards the party’s victory.”
Communities displeased with 10.5% quota move
The 10.5 per cent Vanniyar quota brought in some dismay within the MBC fold, consisting of the Mukkulathor, Nadar, Pillai, Pallar, and Naidu communities. This also forced top AIADMK leaders like Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam, Ministers RB Udhayakumar, Sellur K Raju, and others leaders from Mukkulathor community, to assure people that the Vanniyar quota was only a temporary measure.Speaking to Express, M Jebamani, president of the Denotified Tribes Welfare Association said, “It was our long pending demand of reinstatement of the communities under De-Notified Tribes, instead of keeping them under De-Notified Communities. It was disheartening that our demands were not considered. The AIADMK has lost its secured vote bank to an extent by considering only a single community (Vanniyars) in the MBC fold.”
The AMMK factor
One cannot shut eyes to TTV Dhinakaran’s Amma Makkal Munetra Kalagam (AMMK), particularly in the southern districts. Though unsuccessful in winning a Lok Sabha seat in 2019 parliamentary elections, the AMMK secured 5.25 per cent of the overall vote share — nearly 1.4 lakh votes in Theni, Virudhunagar, Sivaganga, and Ramanthapuram LS constituencies. Further in the by-election for 22 Assembly constituencies, Dhinakaran secured 7.23 per cent votes.
In the subsequent local body elections, the AMMK won nearly 62 panchayat union wards, including Kovilpatti Panchayat Union where Dhinakaran is contesting against minister Kadambur Raju.Ramalingam, an AMMK functionary in Madurai said that the recent trip of VK Sasikala to major temples in the south and her meetings with AMMK candidates conveys a message that she has not entirely quit politics. “There is discontent inside AIADMK even in announcing the candidates and it would reflect in the results. Once Mukkulathors had hegemony in the party, which was the main reason for the south to have remained an AIADMK bastion. But after Jayalalithaa’s demise, everything has changed upside down,” he said.
BJP eyes Devendra Kula Velalar vote bank
Giving assent to the long pending demand of Pallars and their seven sub-castes, calling them with a single heritage name as “Devendrakula Velalar”, the BJP’s agenda is clearly visible in the electoral space.