A high-voltage campaign in this Union Territory for the April 13 polls came to an end on Monday with the Congress-led combine and rival AIADMK-AINRC front making last minute efforts to woo the electorate.
Over 8.10 lakh voters are expected to exercise their franchise to elect 30 members to the territorial assembly.
Congress has fielded its candidates in 17 segments while main ally DMK is seeking election from 10. PMK is contesting two while Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi one.
On the rival side, former chief minister N Rangasamy-led All India NR Congress is contesting 17 seats while AIADMK 10. CPI, CPI-M and DMDK have fielded candidates in one seat each.
During campaigning, Congress and its allies harped on the development theme, saying Puducherry would continue to witness developmental activities if Congress along with its alliance partners were given a renewed mandate.
The AINRC-AIADMK combine, however, countered it saying the Union Territory would be provided a ‘fair and corruption free administration’ if the combine was voted to power.
For the first time, voters here have been promised freebies such as mobile phones, refrigerators, mixies and computers by a number of parties.
The main contestants are Assembly Speaker R Radakrishnan, Chief Minister V Vaithilingam and all his five ministerial colleagues, Puducherry unit’s DMK convener and former chief minister R V Janakiraman, and Rangasamy, who is chief ministerial candidate of the rival front.
Rangasamy, who was ousted as chief minister in August 2008 following squabbles within his ministry, broke away from the Congress to float the AINRC. He is contesting from two segments (Indira Nagar and Kadirkamam), first time a candidate is seeking election from two seats simultaneously in Puducherry.
According to political observers, he is out to settle scores with Congress for removing him as chief minister in 2008, paving way for the setting of a government under Mr. Vaithilingam.
There are in all 187 contestants including 78 Independents in the fray. Yanam has the maximum number of 10 candidates while there is a straight fight in Indira Nagar between Rangasamy and his Congress rival A K D Aroumougame.
Congress President Sonia Gandhi, Union minister Pranab Mukherjee, Congress General Secretary Rahul Gandhi, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and DMK patriarch M. Karunanidhi, AIADMK chief Jayalalithaaa, DMDK leader Vijayakant were among the leaders who campaigned for their respective fronts.
BJP president Nitin Gadkari, senior leaders Sushma Swaraj and Venkiah Naidu campaigned for BJP which is going it alone in 20 segments.