As electioneering for the October 13 by-election for Tiruchi West constituency attained a feverish pitch towards the end on Tuesday, the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhakam (AIADMK) and the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) have left no stones unturned to promise a fierce battle.

Even as the AIADMK is going all out to retain the constituency, the DMK is striving to tilt the applecart in its favour. Neutral political observers predict a photo finish.

The by-election was necessitated by the untimely demise of AIADMK minister N. Mariyam Pichai in a road accident within a week after joining the state Cabinet. In the April 2011 election, late Pichai registered a 7,179 votes win over the then Transport Minister K. N. Nehru.

The AIADMK's anxiety is at its peak, as all parties it had aligned with in the Assembly elections just six months ago are in the opposite side launching scathing attack on the Chief Minister Jayalalithaa for ditching the alliance. Some of these parties have even openly announced that they will work to defeat the AIADMK. The threat has not seemingly deterred the AIADMK. “We are not bothered about smear campaigns.

Our leader wants to prove that the party is a power to reckon with and could overcome any challenge at any point of time without anybody's backing. Our party enjoyed enormous support of the people and the crowd the road side election meetings of Ms.Jayalalithaa attracted in the city on Sunday bear testimony to it,” says a senior AIADMK leader.

The AIADMK, in the absence of support from any other political outfit, is walking the extra mile to reach out to the voters, fully banking on the perceived public approbation for the action taken against land grabbing, and the new people-oriented schemes. The party's strategy is to attract new voters and more number of women.

Nevertheless, the DMK is confident of improving its performance. The criticism against the AIADMK's ‘autocratic' attitude by its ex-allies and the open statement of some of them that they will work to defeat the AIADMK, has raised the hopes of the DMK. The party's local unit is also said to have established fruitful contacts with a majority of the ex-allies of the ruling party to garner support.

Understanding the importance of notching a win here, M. K. Stalin himself filed the nomination papers on behalf of DMK candidate K. N. Nehru, following his imprisonment. He has been here since Saturday to spearhead the campaign. DMK chief M. Karunanidhi addressed a public meeting in the city on Monday. Mr. Stalin explained in detail the various shortcomings of the five-month old Jayalalithaa regime.

The DMK supporters say that Mr. Nehru, in the previous regime had carefully nursed the constituency and had implemented various welfare schemes. His imprisonment has fetched a lot of sympathy for him, they argue.

One interesting aspect of this by-election is that many opposition parties, including the DMDK, MDMK, CPI (M), CPI, PMK, have not yet announced their stand.

The AIADMK had won here four times in 1977, 80, 84 and 91. In 1971, the DMK strongman late Anbil Dharmalingam had won here and his son Anbil Poyyamozhi won the seat in 1989. The party has won here three consecutive elections since 1996. A total of 16 candidates are in the fray. The constituency accounted for a voters strength of 2,08,491 – men 1,02,924, women 1,05,497, others 6 and service voters 64.