Marking the first state polls since the demise of DMK veteran MK Karunanidhi and AIADMK chief J Jayalalitha, all 234 constituencies of Tamil Nadu is set to go to polls in a single phase on Tuesday, with results to be declared on May 2. The battle for the CM post is mainly between 'Son of the soil' CM E Palaniswamy (EPS) and 'CM-in-waiting' DMK chief MK Stalin, while Sasikala's nephew AMMK chief TTV Dinakaran, actor-turned-politician Kamal Haasan and AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi eye to make inroads. While BJP has campaigned heavily, pushing its 'double engine' idea - BJP in Centre, ally in state, it is Stalin's extensive campaign across all 234 constituencies holding 'gram sabhas' aided by Rahul Gandhi's lacklustre campaign, which has tipped the scales heavily in his favour.
As many as 74,162 personnel from Tamil Nadu Local & Armed Reserve (AR) Police, 8,010 personnel from Tamil Nadu Special Police (TSP) and 23, 200 personnel from the CAPF have been deployed for the elections, according to the Tamil Nadu Police. 34,130 non-police personnel have also been deployed, including Home Guard, Forest Guard, Retired Police and ex-CAPF along with 6,350 police personnel and 12,411 Home Guard from other states. Polling across 234 assembly constituencies in 38 districts of the state will begin at 7 am. A total of 3,998 candidates are in the poll fray. In view of COVID-19, the number of polling stations has been increased to 88,937 where over 6.28 crore people will vote.
Bodinayakkanur: Facing a tough re-election, Deputy CM O Pannerselvam (OPS) will face off DMK’s Thanga Tamilselvan in his constituency. Inspite of holding Bodinayakkanur from Theni district since 2011, OPS will face a tough poll battle as he is pitted against Tamilselvan who was once a trusted aide of Jayalalithaa. Moreover, OPS who had rebelled against Sasikala's choice EPS as the CM candidate, is widely being seen as not able to hold his seat. The two-time CM and AIADMK co-convener has since then buried his hatchet with EPS, often jointly campaigning with him across the state.
Dharapuram: Buoyed by the sucess of his 'Vetrivel yatra' to "expose" the Karuppar Kootam that "denigrated" Kanda Sasti Kavacham in praise of Lord Muruga and the DMK "which lent support" to the group, BJP state chief L Murugan seeks to win Dharapuram in Erode. While Murugan hails from Namakkal, he faces DMK's Kayalvizhi, MNM's Charli A and AMMIK Kalarani. In 2011 election, K Ponnusamy of AIADMK had won the Dharapuram seat by a margin of 15,025 votes, while Congress' VS Kalimuthu trounced him in 2016.
Aravakurichi: Fielding 'Singham of Karnataka' IPS officer-turned-neta K Annamalai, the saffron party is counting on his clean image and tough police action in Chikkamangaluru to tackle DMK's Elango. Annamalai has recently attracted an FIR for threatening to 'beat up' DMK's Karur candidate - Senthil Balaji - who is the sitting Aravakuruchi MLA and recently switched from AIADMK to DMK. Annamalai - the former Deputy Commissioner of Police (Bengaluru South) who had quit IPS at the age of 35 in 2019 - joined the BJP in August.
Coimbatore South: In a rare four-way battle, Superstar and MNM founder Kamal Haasan faces BJP's Vanathi Sreenivasan, AMMK's R Doraisamy and Congress' Mayura S Jayakumar. While Coimbatore South is an AIADMK bastion, AMMK's R Doraisamy who had won the seat in 2011 on an AIADMK ticket is set to give the superstar a tough battle. Banking on MNM vice president R Mahendran's good Lok Sabha performance in Coimbatore South, Kamal Haasan is seeking to woo the largely urban, upper-caste voters in the town.
Thousand Lights: DMK-turned-Congress-turned-BJP leader Khushbu Sundar has her work cut out facing popular DMK leader Dr Ezhilan, who was M Karunanidhi's physician. This Chennai-based constituency has been held by DMK President M K Stalin four times, before he shifted to Kolathur. With a sizeable Muslim population, Khushbu Sundar may be able to woo them inspite of her saffron party ticket, yet the advantage is with DMK.
Tamil Nadu polls were set apart by the medley of alliances and the freebies offered in the manifestos. The two warring factions in AIADMK - of Deputy CM O Pannerselvam (OPS) and CM E Palaniswamy (EPS), reconciled after the party named incumbent E Palaniswamy as its CM candidate and O Panneerselvam as the chief of the 11-member steering committee, announcing their alliance with BJP and PMK to counter a resurgent DMK and its allies Congress, MDMK, Left parties, IUML. The two major Dravidian parties are also being challenged by MNM-AAP, AMMK-AIMIM-SDPI and other smaller parties.
Ahead of the polls, CM EPS withdrew cases against Jallikattu protestors, anti-CAA protestors, COVID lockdown violators and Kudankulam nuclear power plant protestors. Apart from taking back so many cases, EPS waived off cooperative farm loans of 12,110 crores availed by 16.43 lakh farmers, issued a 'Pongal gift hamper' for all 2.06 crore ration-card holders, free COVID-19 vaccines, passing school students, offering Rs 1500 monthly allowance to home-makers etc which has been slammed by DMK M K Stalin calling it 'pre-poll appeasement'. In its manifesto, AIADMK has announces several populist sops- free home appliances like washing machine and solar stoves, one govt job per home, dual citizenship for Sri Lankan refugees, urging Centre to repeal CAA etc. Apart from these schemes, AIADMK co-convener and incumbent CM E Palaniswami announced the continuation of Pongal gift hamper, release the Rajiv Gandhi convicts, 12-month maternity leave, mid-day meal scheme extension, 6 cylinders free per year.
DMK has released its manifesto promising national recognition to Thiruvalluvar's Tirukurral, 75% quota to Tamilians in jobs, 500 Kalaignar Unavagam (canteens), increase women representation from 30 to 40%, slash petrol and diesel rates, ban NEET exams, waive education loans of students below 30 years of age, punishing Jayalalitha's killers - to name a few. EPS faces ex-CM Karunanidhi's successor - DMK chief MK Stalin who eyes his maiden CM term as DMK cannot afford to lose a third straight Assembly election after sweeping the state in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls with 38 seats.