Chennai: As campaigning for the rural local body elections shifts into overdrive with top leaders making visits to cheer their grassroots level workers, who are primarily into door-to-door canvassing, it looks that the fight is just between the DMK and AIADMK and with just one issue to haggle over.
While the ruling DMK is going around telling voters that many of promises made during the Assembly elections have been honoured and the rest, too, will be implemented soon, the opposition AIADMK is out to prove that the DMK has cheated the people by reneging on its promises.
Referring to promises like payment of Rs 1000 every month for housewives, lowering of diesel and LPG prices, waiving of educational and agricultural loans and abolition of NEET, the AIADMK cadre are pointing out that the main promises have been hanging fire for the last four months after the DMK came to power.
Leaders of AIADMK, particularly the co-coordinator Edappadi K Palaniswami, have been stressing on the need for party workers to explain to the people what they allege as a lapse on the part of the DMK and urge them not to vote for the party in the local body polls.
On the other hand, District secretaries, some Ministers, MLAs and MPs of the DMK who are spearheading the campaigns at the local level tell their campaigners to list out the over 200 promises that had been honoured, besides the new schemes announced in the last four months, despite enormous financial difficulties.
The DMK wants its cadre to drive home the point that every promise given the manifesto would be implemented in due course and that it was too early to expect the government to honour each and every promise.
While the DMK and its allies invoke the surging popularity of Chief Minister M K Stalin among the people to seek votes, an AMMK candidate in Kadayam, Chandrasekar, too has printed the picture of the Chief Minister along with his in the publicity material, much to the annoyance of local DMK cadre.
However, Chandrasekar has rebuffed those who confronted them by averring that the Chief Minister was common for all in the State and no one can prevent him from using Stalin’s photograph from his handbills.
AIADMK leaders, including former Ministers, MLAs and district secretaries are visiting the poll-bound villages and motivating the cadre, which led to an allegation by the DMK that former Minister S P Velumani was throwing parties to campaigners. Even a complaint was reportedly made to the State Election Commission on that.
Another complaint that both the party cadre are making against each other is that stocking up of gift articles that would be distributed on the eve of the elections – the first phase of which is scheduled for October 6 and the second phase for October 9.
The recovery of 100 fans from the premises of a panchayat president in MIlaripettai village near Thirukovilur, created a sensation in the area with both the parties pointing fingers at each other. Similarly both parties are accusing each other of stocking up liquor, saying that crates and crates have already been transported from Puducherry.
However, there was a general feeling that DMK cadre were not as upbeat as the AIADMK counterparts in reaching out to the people. To add credence to the speculation, Minister Duraimurugan had tried to cheer up the workers during a meeting at Jolarpettai the other day.
He had told the local functionaries not be bogged down as the government would dissolve all the cooperative bodies after the local body elections and fill up the posts afresh with new members, suggesting that they could look forward to rewards.
While Palaniswami is the star campaigner as of now for the AIADMK, party coordinator, O Panneerselvam, who had been lying low after his wife passed away on September 1, is expected to hit the campaign trail from Friday.
Though the other parties are not actually making a real impact in the villages, leaders of VCK, Naam Tamilar Katchi, Makkal Neethi Maiam, Congress and BJP are campaigning in select pockets where they believe they have some clout.
For the PMK, youth wing president Anbumani Ramadoss and Leader of the Legislative Party G K Mani are leading the campaign but only in regions that they consider as their bastions.
Irrespective of party affiliations, villagers in the districts of Kanchipuram, Chengalpattu, Vellore, Tirupattur, Ranipet, Villupuram, Kallakurichi, Tirunelveli and Tenkasi, and in places where casual elections are to be held to fill vacancies in other districts, are said to be quietly waiting for parties and candidates to distribute cash.
Though flying squads have been pressed into service and police and home guards are to be deployed, the gossip at the local level is that the emergence of the hidden gifts, cash and liquor into the open cannot be stopped.