Chennai, June 15: The campaign has gathered steam for the June 27 bypoll contest in Tamil Nadu featuring Chief Minister Jayalalithaa as AIADMK workers are going all out to ensure her victory against the lone CPI challenger.
Driving the AIADMK campaign for the bypoll to the Dr Radhakrishnan Nagar Assembly seat are a battery of ministers led by former chief minister O Panneerselvam. Party functionaries from across the state, too, are pitching in as they seek a big victory for Jayalalithaa in the bypoll, which prominent opposition parties DMK, BJP, Congress, MDMK and PMK have, however, decided to boycott.
Jayalalithaa is contesting the bypoll after her acquittal by Karnataka High Court in a disproportionate wealth case. She returned as the chief minister on May 23 following a seven-month hiatus which was forced by her conviction in the case by a Bengaluru special court. She is contesting the poll with a view to fulfilling the constitutional requirement for getting elected to the Assembly within six months.
AIADMK functionaries are seeking votes highlighting the ruling party's welfare measures such as free mixies, grinders, milch cows, sheep, laptop and bicycles for students and the popular 'Amma Canteen' initiative for selling food items at highly subsidised rates.
Jayalalithaa, known to engage voters in her interactive style during election meetings, is expected to hit the campaign trail soon. CPI, which is the lone recognised opposition party in the fray after the others chose to boycott the bypoll, has fielded its senior state leader C Mahendran against Jayalalithaa.
The Left party is seeking votes on the promise to "protect the interests of working classes, the common man and democracy." DMK, BJP, Congress, MDMK and PMK announced a boycott of the election as they alleged the ruling party would use money power to sway the outcome their way.
The opposition parties also reasoned that there was no need to contest the bypoll as the Assembly elections are due early next year. AIADMK is telling the people that RK Nagar will witness development as it will be represented by the chief minister, who is contesting from a city constituency for the first time.
During canvassing, most AIADMK workers display a plastic placard of green bearing an image of the "two leaves" which is the party's symbol and a photo of Jayalalithaa embossed prominently on it.
Mahendran, who is backed by CPI(M) and other Left outfits, including trade unions, is engaged in a door-to-door campaign in the bylanes of the congested North Chennai segment. Although 28 candidates, including social activist "Traffic" Ramaswamy, are in the fray, the "contest" is mainly between Jayalalithaa and Mahendran.
Jayalalithaa has set up a 50-member election committee, in which are included 28 ministers, to work for AIADMK's victory. Panneerselvam and party presidium chairman E Madhusudhanan are on the said committee. CPI for its part is banking on its work for the welfare of the ordinary people and the working classes.
Notably, North Chennai, under which RK Nagar falls, has a sizable working class population and the area is a cradle for the growth and development of the trade union movement since the early 20th century. The neighbouring Perambur seat is represented by CPI(M) MLA A Soundararajan.
The seat was won by the party in alliance with the AIADMK in 2011. During campaigning, CPI talks of how the party continues to work for the development of North Chennai since the days of legendary Communist leader "Thozhar" Jeeva, who was elected as an MLA from the same area in 1957.
The CPI is asking people to vote for it to ensure that RK Nagar, which it says is lagging behind in every aspect, including civic amenities, may witness all-round development.
Although traditionally the Left parties have had a reasonable support base in North Chennai, it remains to be seen if it will translate into votes for it in the upcoming bypoll. On the campaign trail, both CPI and CPI(M) are hitting hard at AIADMK as they raise allegations of use of "money power" to swing votes in its favour.
"The ruling AIADMK is trying to win elections by using solely its money and muscle power," Mahendran told PTI. "Although AIADMK has won RK Nagar several times, it could not solve even the basic civic problems in the locality," he charged.
The constituency faces several issues, including driking water problem, congestion and pollution to name a few. It is considered an AIADMK stronghold as the party has won it thrice in a row (2001, 2006 and 2011) besides in 1977 and 1991. Although not contesting this bypoll, principal opposition DMK had won the seat only twice -- in 1989 and 1996.
On both occasions, it had captured power in the state. RK Nagar has 1,21,508 women voters and 1,18,960 male voters out of a total electorate of 2,40,543. Since it came to power in 2011, AIADMK has won all the six byelections held in Tamil Nadu and RK Nagar is the seventh such contest for it. While polling in RK Nagar will be held on June 27, the counting of votes will tale place on June 30.