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Virtual tools in Tamil Nadu’s real political battle

Posted by on March 8, 2011 0 Comment

Chennai, March 8 (IANS) With the assembly elections around the corner, youth cadres of the two major political parties in Tamil Nadu – the ruling DMK and the opposition AIADMK – are busy plotting strategies to woo young voters using the virtual tools of information technology.

The state elections will be held April 13.

While the youth wing of the AIADMK has launched its campaign using MMS clips and Bluetooth technology, the DMK youth have taken to social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter in a big way, spreading the good news about the DMK-led government’s achievements.

Led by former actor and former chief minister J. Jayalalithaa, the AIADMK has its youth brigade well aware of the impact of video messages on voters. The main theme is obviously the 2G spectrum scam that has caught the DMK on the wrong foot.

The MMS clips they send are mostly on the DMK’s tainted former union communication minister A. Raja, who is now in Tihar jail for his role in the 2G spectrum scam. The campaign is mainly targeting student voters.

“We are circulating clips of Raja being arrested. There is also a two-minute video clip with a scrolling message – “There are no dreams and no future because of the DMK; change the situation and vote for the AIADMK,” R.B Udayakumar, AIADMK’s state student wing secretary, told IANS.

The party’s young campaigners have made a 30-minute video film detailing the 2G spectrum scandal, the DMK’s failure to check prices of essential commodities and its keenness to perpetuate family rule, he said.

“We are waiting for Amma’s (Jayalalithaa’s) approval. After it has been approved, we will distribute the video CDs to every household in Tamil Nadu,” Kumar added.

According to him, people generally have a tendency to throw away pamphlets without even looking at them and that prompted the student wing to distribute the CDs and screen them in villages.

Kumar said as many as 150 youth cadres are working day and night in 45 districts for the AIADMK.

Apart from the IT-enabled campaign, the opposition party’s youth are also using traditional methods to woo voters.

A Rangoli contest on the 2G scam for homemakers and women self-help groups is among their innovative campaign programmes.

The young workers have also planned out-of-the-campus competitions for students on topics such as the impact of the 2G scandal on the state and price rice.

“We give instant prizes to the winners, but not expensive gifts like television sets or gas stoves. We give them school bags, stationery items and shields carrying the image of Anna (founder of undivided DMK C.N. Annadurai),” said G.N Satish Kumar, AIADMK youth wing leader in Ramanathapuram district.

Meanwhile, the DMK youth cadres have launched an SMS campaign to reach voters across the state.

“We are uploading Kalaignar’s (DMK president and Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi) remarkable achievements like the Re.1-a-kilo rice scheme, 108 free emergency ambulance services and the Kalaignar Insurance Scheme among others,” said I. Pugazhendi, secretary of the DMK students’ wing.

Asked if the freebies schemes would help the party win the elections this time too, Suresh, a DMK youth wing leader, said the government distributed useful gifts like gas stoves and television sets for the benefit of the public in the state, not for votes.

“The government distributes TVs and gas stoves throughout the year. It is not just to attract voters,” Suresh stressed.

At a time when the cadres are busy campaigning for their parties, there are also some lone voices criticising the alleged election irregularities in the state.

M.G. Devasahayam, convener of the Forum for Electoral Integrity, is touring extensively across Tamil Nadu to create awareness among voters against poll malpractices.

“If you sell your vote, it is like selling yourself,” he says.

“We started the Forum in September 2010 with former chief election commissioners and IAS officials as its members. The state witnessed several poll irregularities in the last parliamentary elections and by-elections. Right from a packet of biriyani to free flow of liquors worth up to Rs.500 were given to people for votes,” he said.

Devasahayam accused political parties of making voters “shareholders of corruption”.

According to former chief election commissioner N. Gopalaswami, Tamil Nadu is high up in the list of poll irregularities.

“After 2006, poll irregularities like booth capturing, distribution of freebies and use of muscle power are increasingly seen in Tamil Nadu. Votes are bought and sold in a planned manner. Everyone knows about it, but not much is done due to the muscle and money power of the politicians,” Gopalaswami said.

These days parties have discovered novel and innovative methods to buy votes, he said, adding that “a party hit by scams and corruption is well known for doing these.”

However, a senior income-tax official in Chennai told IANS that it is difficult to curb distribution of freebies or buying of votes for money in Tamil Nadu, which is done daringly in the open.

“It is time the people woke up,” he said.

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