Campaigning for bye-elections to Nanguneri and Vikravandi Assembly constituencies in Tamil Nadu ended Saturday, with DMK and AIADMK seeing the polls as a run-up to the 2021 assembly elections. The result of these two constituencies could play a significant role in the respective party's approach towards the upcoming local body elections.
The Vikravandi assembly constituency in Villupuram district fell vacant after DMK legislator K Radhamani passed away this June. Similarly, the Nanguneri assembly constituency in the Tirunelveli district fell vacant after HL Vasantha Kumar of the Congress resigned after being elected as MP from the Kanyakumari constituency.
In Vikravandi, both the Dravidian parties have fielded Vanniyar caste candidates. DMK candidate N Pugazhendhi is the party treasurer for its Villupuram district unit and has thrice been the union secretary of Vikravandi constituency.
A farmer by profession, Pugazhendhi has been with the DMK since 1973. On the other hand, the ruling party has fielded MR Muthamizhselvan, the AIADMK secretary of Kanai Union in the Villupuram district unit.
The Vanniyar community has a sizeable presence in the Vikravandi constituency. DMK leader MK Stalin has promised that the Vanniyar community would be given 20 per cent reservation and a memorial would be built for Vanniyar leader A Govindasamy if the party was voted to power.
Stalin’s promise drew a sharp response from Pattali Makkal Katchi's leader Dr Ramadoss. In a strongly-worded statement, Ramadoss said Stalin was forced to make such empty promises because he was afraid of losing and stated that DMK’s candidate would not be able to get back his deposit amount.
“Even when DMK was in power they haven't done any welfare for the Vanniyar community. Stalin claims that he is a benefactor of Vanniyars, people are not fools to believe him, they are not innocent DMK cadres," Ramadoss said.
In Nanguneri, DMK’s ally Congress named R Manoharan, the head of Ruby Group of companies, as its candidate. An Air Force veteran, Manoharan is the party's Kancheepuram North district unit president.
AIADMK has chosen Rettiyarpatti V Narayanan as their candidate for Nanguneri. Since 2013, Narayanan has been working as the joint-secretary of MGR Mandram. He has also served as a president in Rettiyarpatti panchayath town. His association with the AIADMK dates back to 1986.
The campaigning was marked by a war of words between CM Edappadi Palanisamy and MK Stalin. Edappadi, who played the ‘Amma’ card in the Vellore elections, decided to play it up again with a different angle.
“Karunanidhi and his son Stalin are the ones responsible for Amma’s death. It’s because of the fake case they filed, Amma suffered and died. We shouldn’t forget what they did to Amma, her soul won’t forgive them. Stalin had been saying that AIADMK has only 122 MLAs, he doesn’t know that after winning in these bye-elections, we would be having 124 members in the assembly. DMK is not a party, it’s a corporate company and people will never support them. Stalin’s dream of becoming the Chief Minister of this state will never happen,” Edappadi said.
In reply to Edappadi, Stalin said DMK was never responsible for J Jayalalithaa's death and claimed the disproportionate assets case was filed by Subramanian Swamy in 1996.
"Its time for the AIADMK party members to pack their bags as DMK would come to power soon. Edappadi was not elected by the people of TN, he got the Chief Minister post by accident. No public welfare schemes have been initiated by this AIADMK government in all these years. As you all know, the law and order in the state has become worse. Rape, murder, and robbery are increasing by the day, Pollachi sexual assault case is an example. AIADMK is nothing but a puppet of the centre, they should be sent home. After DMK comes to power, people who were responsible for Jayalalithaa's death would be punished," he said.
Meanwhile, Tamil Nadu Chief Secretary K Shanmugam issued an order declaring October 21 a local holiday for the bye-election constituencies.
“The Government has decided to declare Monday, the 21st October 2019 as a Public Holiday for the areas Vikravandi and Nanguneri assembly constituencies lying in Villupuram and Tirunelveli districts respectively in connection with the bye-election to Tamil Nadu legislative assembly constituencies. Further, all employees working in Villupuram, Tirunelveli and other neighbouring districts but registered as voters in Vikravandi and Nanguneri constituencies shall also be given a paid holiday," Shanmugam said.
Tamil Nadu Chief electoral officer Satyabrata Sahoo said party cadres who don’t belong to Vikravandi and Nanguneri constituencies should leave the area by Saturday. “A total of 275 poll booths in Vikravandi and 299 booths in Nanguneri have been set up. Booth slips have been issued to the voters. Sensitive areas in both constituencies have been identified and they would be given adequate police protection," he said.
In the run-up to voting, security measures have been beefed up. Paramilitary forces will be in place and CCTV cameras are set to be installed in all polling booths. Apart from this, special task forces have been instructed to conduct search operations in all the hotels, lodges, social welfare complexes, etc to make sure no native-residents are seen on the polling day.
The results of the assembly bye-election would be announced on October 24.