TAMIL NADU

Parties move into top gear for Assembly poll

It promises to be another close and hard-fought battle Jayalalithaa has been launching new schemes or expanding existing welfare programmes to reach out to more people.

V. Jayanth

CHENNAI: Though there are nine months to go before the tenure of the present Tamil Nadu Assembly ends, political parties here appear to be in "election mode" already. If the Opposition Democratic Progressive Alliance raised the pitch soon after the 2004 Parliament elections, the ruling party (All-India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam) was enthused by the recent by-elections to the Assembly. Elections must be held before May 2006, but somehow at least some of the opposition parties suspect it may be called earlier. AIADMK sources deny any such move and insist that the Election Commission will work out the schedule along with polls to some other Assemblies due next year.

If Chief Minister Jayalalithaa comes out with a new announcement every day, launching new schemes or expanding existing welfare programmes to reach out to more people, the main opposition Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam has been busy inaugurating or announcing new Central projects. DMK president M. Karunanidhi has held a series of confabulations with party functionaries from across the State and met leaders of the DPA here several times to review the political situation and come up with new agitations or identify new issues to be raised with the people. Ms. Jayalalithaa has been looking at all Government departments, monitoring various programmes, reviewing implementation of on-going projects and ferreting out funds to implement new projects or welfare measures. The objective appears to be to touch the lives of more people — directly, if possible.

As the DMK prepares for its "turning point" regional conference at Vellore towards the end of the month, AIADMK sources say that their leader may hold the kind of "interviews" with district functionaries and cadres as she did before the last Assembly election. That could pave the way for fine-tuning the party machinery for the polls and putting together "the best team" to organise the campaign.

Seat-sharing

Every constituent of the DPA, which consists of seven parties now, has reiterated its commitment to stay with the alliance. The Pattali Makkal Katchi for one wants to add on one or two more smaller parties, if possible. Though formally, the sensitive question of seat sharing has not been touched, DPA partners are speaking of various formulae to handle this.

Parties move into top gear for Assembly poll

So far, the AIADMK has not identified any allies. In the 2004 Parliamentary elections, it had a seat-sharing arrangement with the BJP, but the two parties broke away soon after the elections. It remains to be seen if they can patch up before the polls.

New entrant

A new entrant to the political scene this year will be another actor-turned-politician, Vijaykanth, who is expected to launch his new party next month. It remains to be seen if it makes any impact and whether the film hero will look for alliances. The problem will be to sustain the tempo for the next seven or eight months, by when the elections may be called in the normal course.

There are as yet no indications of an early election in Tamil Nadu, but it promises to be another close and hard-fought battle and a clearly one-on-one race between the incumbent and the former Chief Minister.

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