India Today - - ASSEMBLY POLLS 2016 - By Amar­nath K. Menon

He’s Tamil Nadu’s longest­serv­ing chief min­is­ter, and though wheel­chair-bound now, he’s still seek­ing re-elec­tion as an MLA (for the 13th time, he has never lost). Muthu­vel Karunanidhi will most likely win that battle, but his party, the DMK, faces an up­hill task on the elec­tions front. Bit­ter ri­val and in­cum­bent chief min­is­ter J. Jay­alalithaa’s AIADMK poses a stiff chal­lenge, add to which there’s also a third front to deal with, com­pris­ing the ‘Cap­tain’ Vi­jayakanth-led DMDK and the PWF, an al­liance of four smaller par­ties, in­clud­ing the Left.

Sens­ing a tougher fight this time, the Kalaig­nar, as the DMK pa­tri­arch is called rev­er­en­tially, has con­ceded just 41 con­stituen­cies to their part­ner, the Congress, keep­ing 180 of the 234 seats for him­self, with 13 set aside for mi­nor al­lies. Apart from the split in the an­ti­in­cum­bency vote, the DMK also has to worry about the de­bris from the 2G spec­trum scam where many of its lead­ers are charged and a per­ceived lack of con­nect among young and new vot­ers (voter reg­is­tra­tions are up by 1.2 crore since the 2011 polls). He is banking on re­turns from son and for­mer deputy CM M.K. Stalin’s very suc­cess­ful statewide ‘Na­makku Naame’ (We are for Us) ya­tra last year, the lat­ter’s youth con­nect, poll prom­ises of jobs and a pro­gres­sive ban on the sale of liquor, among other things to turn the tide against Jay­alalithaa’s en­dur­ing ru­ral con­nect. Amma’s writ runs deep now, hav­ing wooed vot­ers steadily through a slew of schemes and sops, of­fered in phases dur­ing her cur­rent five-year ten­ure.

The DMK chief’s key strengths are his past per­for­mances as chief min­is­ter, a diehard party rank and

Nfile, mostly in ur­ban and semi-ur­ban pock­ets across Tamil Nadu and an im­pres­sive per­sonal record in get­ting the state its due, ir­re­spec­tive of which party was in power in Delhi. “The Kalaig­nar has cred­i­bil­ity, he’s given Tamil Nadu able govern­ments, im­ple­ment­ing schemes for the in­clu­sive growth of the econ­omy and up­lift of the poor. Which is why the state now has the sec­ond-largest econ­omy (next to Ma­ha­rash­tra) in terms of GSDP and is the third-largest con­tribut­ing state to the na­tional GDP,” ar­gues Dr M. Na­ganathan, for­mer vice-chair­man of the Tamil Nadu State Plan­ning Board.



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