Chennai: In the absence of the tall leaders, it will be a litmus test for both the AIADMK and the DMK as 39 constituencies in Tamil Nadu are set to go to polls on April 18. This time, both the parties have managed to form a spectrum of alliances, but there are interesting constituencies to look out for.
The constituency will see a tough battle between two high-profile women candidates — M Kanimozhi of the DMK and BJP state president Tamilisai Soundararajan. While both are outsiders, both have decided to contest from this constituency as there is a sizeable Nadar population in the region. The fishermen community is disenchanted with the incumbent AIADMK for the anti-Sterlite massacre in May last year. It was the fishermen who had come in waves to the forefront of the protests against the copper smelter. This led the BJP to consider the consolidation of the Hindu Nadar votes in its favour.
The smallest constituency with a sizeable minority Christian population along the coastal belt, has key issues such as disruption in fishing activities due to the Manakudi port. Sitting MP Pon Radhakrishnan faces a strong opposition from the TTV Dinakaran camp. Fishermen who are affiliated to the church have also got directions to vote for a secular alliance, which also implies that there could be large number of votes in the favour of Congress candidate H Vasantha Kumar.
The constituency which has elected former Finance minister P Chidambaram in the past will now have to choose between his son Karti and firebrand BJP State leader H Raja. In the 2014 elections, H Raja as part of a multi-party BJP alliance had defeated Karti, who came fourth in the elections. In his defence, Karti says he was one among the two Congress candidates who had secured over one lakh votes. The Congress, which had contested alone last time, is part of an anti-BJP band of regional forces led by the DMK. While this may swing the votes in his favour, the TTV Dinakaran camp as a disruptor will also play a role in this constituency.
The south-western constituency will witness a battle of heavyweights between Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam’s lieutenant Thangatamilselvan and OP Ravindranath Kumar, son of O Panneerselvam. In Theni, caste equations play a major role making it a contest between two Thevar sub-castes — Maravars and Kallars. The DMK has fielded former state Congress president EVKS Elangovan who may leverage DMK presence in the constituency.
The Karur Lok Sabha constituency, which has attracted the highest number of candidates among the 39 constituencies in the state, will see a battle between Congress’ Jothimani S against sitting MP and Deputy Lok Sabha Speaker M Thambidurai. Senthil Balaji, a former Minister in Jayalalithaa's government who sided with Dinakaran after her demise has now turned to the DMK, which could help sway votes for the Jothimani.
This time, the BJP is betting big in Coimbatore. A two-time former MP, CP Radhakrishnan, is not new to the people of this constituency. The industrial town is one of the regions where the BJP has grown organically over the decades as opposed to Thoothukudi where it is still finding its feet. On the other hand, the DMK alliance has fielded a CPIM candidate. Besides, Kamal Haasan's Makkal Needhi Maiam has also created a presence in Coimbatore through its Vice President R Mahendran who is a local from Pollachi region.
The delta region will witness a contest between former Congress state president S Thirunavukkarasar and DMDK. TTV Dinakaran has also made indoors in this region.
The Vaniyars and the Mudaliyars will face each other in this seat. Besides, a sizeable Muslim population in pockets like Ambur are opting for a secular alliance. The spectre of cash for votes has reared its head in this constituency. The Election Commission has seized Rs.11.5 crore from DMK cadre leading to an FIR being filed against DMK candidate Kathir Anand, son of senior leader Duraimurugan.
Dayanidhi Maran, after losing to the AIADMK which swept across the state in 2014, is hoping to get re-elected from his own constituency. Sam Paul, a PMK candidate, is a lawyer-entrepreneur and a first-time contestant. The electoral terrain of Chennai central is split between multi-religious working classes and sections of affluent families. One of the most urbanised constituencies, Chennai Central is also set to witness a celluloid firepower through actor-turned-politician Kamal Haasan who has fielded a Muslim candidate in the constituency.