With the chatter of the spectrum scam in the ears of urban voters, DMK’s electoral hopes clearly ride on the rural masses this time around.
Till some time back, the rural electorate used to be the AIADMK’s mainstay until the DMK welfare machinery learnt to woo them. The anticipated shift in urban and rural voting patterns is what makes election 2011 intriguing.
The Thevar heartland of Theni in southern Tamil Nadu was territory DMK feared. That was until the 2009 parliamentary polls when the AIADMK bastion crumbled. Now J Jayalalithaa has quietly packed up from her backward constituency of Andipatti, seeking a safe haven further north in Srirangam. And her opponent finds seats ripe for the picking down in pastoral Theni.
DMK will contest all four constituencies in Theni district. The party has fielded candidates in 36 out of 58 seats in the southern part of the state. Clearly, it believes the rugged, rural terrain down south may hold the key to its fate.
In the sprawling thevar and dalit belts, where wages are abysmally low and poverty reigns, DMK hopes its free television sets, health insurance cover, rural employment programme and one rupee per kilo rice scheme would warm the hearts of the rural poor.
DMK, in the reckoning for 119 seats, has placed its bets on the southern constituencies after losing its grip over Chennai, a stronghold for decades.
Consider this: In the 2006 elections, DMK handed out just one seat in Chennai to the Congress. This time it has parted with five for the Congress and three for other partners. Three top DMK leaders, including Karunanidhi, have shifted out of their Chennai constituencies.
All over the northern belt stretching from Chennai to Arcot, DMK is contesting just 33 out of 78 seats. “Our alliance partners PMK and DPI are strong in this region. We had to part with some of our safe seats in northern Tamil Nadu,” a DMK minister said.
The party is not banking much on the Cauvery belt either. It has decided to field just 24 candidates in 41 seats across central Tamil Nadu. As for the western belt, DMK has cleverly tied up with the newly-sprouted Kongunadu Munnetra Kazhagam after it suffered a rout here in the 2009 parliamentary elections .
TN’s western swathe slices through an intriguing pollscape of two caste belts – the intermediate Vanniyar and Gounder communities. It is here that AIADMK has pitched its anchor for a sail back to power. In western Tamil Nadu, the AIADMK is contesting 78% of seats, indicating the western tilt in AIADMK’s calculations.
In the scorching Cauvery delta of central Tamil Nadu too, Jayalalithaa is pinning lofty hopes of a rich poll harvest. AIADMK candidates have been fielded in 36 out of 41 constituencies and Jayalalithaa herself is contesting from the temple town of Srirangam. “The most urbanised pockets in the state are located in western and central parts of Tamil Nadu. That is why Amma has fielded more candidates here,” said a former AIADMK minister.
In her southern bastion too, Jayalalithaa has not shied away. Her party will fight 35 out of 58 seats. But in the largely urbanised western belt, she has fielded candidates in 39 out of 57 constituencies. She has gifted away unsafe seats in the rural, backward patches of Dharmapuri and Krishnagiri in the western belt.
She has also kept off the rugged terrains of the Nilgiris, the constituency of former telecom minister A Raja. The AIADMK’s poll sails may have tailwind from the 2G scam , but the party has chosen not to push its luck in Raja’s land. Her party is contesting just one of the three seats in Nilgiris, a traditional Congress-DMK fortress.
In Coimbatore , the party is contesting all seats barring Sulur and Valparai. In Tirupur, the party has allotted only one of the eight seats to its allies. “But this time there will be reversal of fortunes. The west will favour the DMK combine,” says minister Pongalur Palanisamy . TNN