Today's Paper

End of a negative campaign

CHENNAI May 29. Campaigning in the three Assembly constituencies going to the polls on May 31 came to an end at 5 p.m. today with political parties winding up electioneering with public meetings and cycle rallies. The police took out flag marches in Vaniyambadi and Saidapet to infuse confidence in voters.

For the Opposition, particularly the DMK, the elections provided an opportunity to attack the State Government for the increase in prices and tariffs of essential commodities and services.

The Chief Minister and AIADMK general secretary, Jayalalithaa, who concluded her electioneering yesterday, not only highlighted the achievements of her Government in the last one year but also concentrated on the failures of the DMK regime from 1996 to 2001.

Indeed, like the Opposition, the AIADMK too adopted a negative line. Ms. Jayalalithaa blamed the DMK and its president, M. Karunanidhi, for almost everything. The financial crisis faced by the State, vindictive actions against AIADMK leaders and administrative inefficiency in managing public sector enterprises formed the substance of her 10-day canvassing in the constituencies.

Mr. Karunanidhi, apart from attacking the Government for the steep increase in prices, faulted it for withdrawal of welfare schemes initiated under his Chief Ministership. Knowing that the byelections were not significant by themselves, he asked the people to ensure that the results acted as a check on the Government.

Although Mr. Karunanidhi spent less time than Ms. Jayalalithaa in the three constituencies, he made use of public meetings to elaborate on what he thought were the key issues. Rather than cover an entire constituency, he tried to touch on all important issues in select places.

Ms. Jayalalithaa, however, criss-crossed each of the constituencies, mostly sticking to her prepared text.

The few alterations in her speech-text were made only to counter some of the points raised by Mr. Karunanidhi, like the issue of the AIADMK candidate trailing her in a separate vehicle in Saidapet.

In Acharapakkam, where the Pattali Makkal Katchi is fighting with the support of all major constituents of the National Democratic Alliance, including the DMK, the BJP and the MDMK, the PMK founder, S. Ramadoss, wanted the people to teach the AIADMK a lesson. Apart from the AIADMK and the DMK, the serious contenders are the CPI in Acharapakkam, the CPI(M) in Saidapet and the Indian National League in Vaniyambadi.

The Left parties used the opportunity to attack the economic policies of the Centre and the State Government. Their general theme was that the AIADMK Government was following the destructive economic policies of the BJP-led NDA regime.

Although the MDMK is not a frontrunner in either of the two constituencies where it has fielded candidates, the general secretary, Vaiko, sought to derive the maximum political mileage from the support extended by the BJP to the party candidate in Saidapet. The MDMK projected itself to the BJP as a better ally than the DMK. Indeed, to please the BJP, the MDMK brought into the campaign national issues such as terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir and the tension on the Indo-Pakistan borders.

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