Tamil Nadu votes today: It is PM Modi versus Stalin

Hardeep Singh Bedi

New Delhi, April 17: The polling for the second phase of Lok Sabha elections will be conducted on Thursday. The voters will decide the fate of candidates in 97 parliamentary constituencies in 13 states and Union Territories (UTs).

Polling will take place in some of the Lok Sabha seats in Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jammu and Kashmir, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Manipur, Odisha, Puducherry, Uttar Pradesh, and West Bengal.

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However, all the 39 Lok Sabha seats of Tamil Nadu will go to polling. These seats are: Tirvallur, Chennai North, Chennai South, Chennai Central, Sriperumbudur, Kancheepuram, Arakkonam, Vellore, Krishnagiri, Dharmapuri, Tiruvannamalai, Arani, Viluppuram, Kallakurichi, Salem, Namakkal, Erode, Tiruppur, Nilgiris, Coimbatore, Pollachi, Dindigul, Karur, Tiruchirapalli, Perambalur, Cuddalore, Chidambaram, Mayiladuthurai, Nagapattinam, Thanjavur, Sivaganga, Madurai, Theni, Virudhunagar, Ramanathapuram, Thoothukoodi, Tenkasi, Tirunelveli, Kanniyakumari.

A total of 845 candidates are in the fray in Tamil Nadu whose electoral fate will be decided by about 5.99 crore voters.

The election results of Tamil Nadu have always played an important role in the government formation at the Centre.

The All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) and the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) are the two strong political parties of the state, with whom the national parties like the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) form a pre-poll alliance to better their national tally.

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While the BJP has joined hands with the AIADMK, the Congress has forged alliance with the DMK.

Apart from smaller Dravidian parties, actor-politician Kamal Haasan 's Makkal Needhi Maiam (MNM) is also in the fray. It would be interesting to watch how his party performs when the results are announced on May 23.

Hassan has said that he could back either the BJP or the Congress after the ongoing Lok Sabha elections, but his support would be conditional.

Tamil superstar Rajinikanth has also entered into politics but decided neither to contest Lok Sabha polls nor to extend support to any political party.

He, however, has indirectly supported the BJP by welcoming the party's proposal to set up an authority for linking of rivers.

Rajinikanth said he has been advocating for linking of rivers since the days when Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the prime minister. The sharing of waters of the Cauvery River has been the source of a serious conflict between Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.

Apart from drinking water and irrigation, the anti-Sterlite Copper smelter plant agitation and the killing of 13 protestors in police firing last May, infrastructure projects affecting the livelihood of people are some other issues that the voters are likely to take into account before casting their vote.

It is for the first time since decades that Tamil Nadu will be voting in the absence of its two prominent political figures: AIADMK's Jayalalitha and DMK 's Karunanidhi. The AIADMK supremo Jayalalitha died on December 5, 2016, and DMK supremo Karunanidhi on August 7, 2018.

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The AIADMK under the charismatic leadership of late Jayalalitha had scored its best-ever tally in the Lok Sabha by winning 37 seats out of 39 in 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

This time the absence of Jayalalitha and factionalism in the AIADMK has made the fight in Tamil Nadu between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and DMK leader M.K Stalin.

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15.80 crore people decide fate of 1,600 candidates