Chennai, Feb 26 (PTI) The coming assembly elections will witness a show-down between arch-rivals AIADMK and the DMK with the ruling party eyeing a record third straight term betting on its 'positive performance' and the latter keen to wrest power in the state after a ten year hiatus.
The single phase elections to the 234-member assembly on April 6 would be the first state polls without the presence of icons of the two Dravidian parties -- late chief minister J Jayalalithaa and DMK patriarch M Karunanidhi, who died in 2016 and 2018 respectively.
Besides the two major Dravidian parties, actor Kamal Hassan's Makkal Needhi Maiam is also in the fray, hoping to make a mark in the polls.
While Palaniswami began his campaign in December last, the DMK kick-started its drive to reach out to the voters even before with programmes like the 'Stalin's voice towards dawn,' featuring tours by party chief M K Stalin.
Youth wing leader and Stalin's son Udhayanidhi Stalin, party MP Kanimozhi were in the forefront besides the DMK president who spearheaded several poll initiatives like the 'We reject AIADMK.' AIADMK has taken the lead in announcing that its alliance with the BJP forged for the Lok Sabha polls would continue for the assembly elections also.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched several projects in Tamil Nadu in recent days and kick-started his party's campaign with a sharp attack on DMK-Congress over corruption.
The AIADMK had contested the 2019 Lok Sabha elections in alliance with BJP, the DMDK, the PMK and others but came a cropper with the combine winning only one seat as the DMK- Congress front swept the other 38 constituencies.
The AIADMK's campaign this time, steered by Palaniswami, has so far focused on its slew of welfare measures, infrastructure projects besides initiatives including a recent amendment that enhanced punishment for crimes against women and children.
The party has taken pride in its government effectively tackling the coronavirus pandemic and at the same time ensuring that the poor and ordinary people were not affected by extending sops to them.
Financial assistance of Rs 1,000 to ration card holders and distribution of essential commodities free of cost through Public distribution system outlets were among the measures the ruling party's top leader has not missed to list out.
The Rs 1,000 cash assistance was extended to beneficiaries for the second time in Chennai and Madurai that witnessed intensive lockdown last year.
A Pongal gift hamper of Rs 2,500 per family at a cost of Rs 5,604.84 crore, setting up of an unprecedented 11 medical colleges in the government sector to give a push to public health infra have also been given prominence by the ruling party in its propaganda.
In the run-up to the polls, the government has announced various welfare measures, including waiver of farm loans and an accident cum life insurance scheme for 55.67 lakh Below Poverty Line families who would be eligible for a Rs two lakh to Rs four lakh insurance cover.
The Chief Minister recently announced Rs 12,110.74 crore crop loan waiver for farmers and on Friday declared waiver of jewel loans, and also loans availed by women members of Self Help Groups.
Measures like a bill envisaging 10.50 per cent sub- quota for Vanniyars, a most backward community in Tamil Nadu which was passed in the assembly, is expected by the AIADMK to shore up its poll prospects.
Palaniswami has also time and again underscored that he is a farmer, of humble origin while alleging that only the family of late Karunanidhi dominated the DMK.
On the other hand, DMK is focusing on corruption allegations against Palaniswami and his Cabinet colleagues and days ago it submitted one more petition to Governor Banwarilal Purohit seeking action.
'Collection, Corruption and Commission' were among the catchphrases it has been using against the AIADMK.
The DMK has also come up with slogans like 'Stalin thaan vararu, vidiyal thara poraru,' (Stalin is coming and he is set to provide dawn to the people).
Stalin has dismissed claims of dynasty politics of AIADMK saying he slogged for several decades for DMK and even went to jail during the infamous emergency (1975-77).
Also, the DMK had all along accused the AIADMK of being servile to the Centre and bartering away Tamil Nadu's interests.
Stalin has accused the government of trying to hoodwink people by not making financial allocations for the key schemes it announced.
The Election Commission on Friday announced the schedule of assembly polls for Tamil Nadu, Puducherry, Assam, West Bengal, and Kerala on Friday.
The AIADMK snatched the reins of power from rival DMK in 2011 and retained it in 2016 with Jayalalithaa leading the party then. PTI VGN VS VS