DMK goes all out to fight Tamil Nadu urban local body polls

DMK goes all out to fight Tamil Nadu urban local body polls

India News

The battle lines are drawn for the urban local body polls in Tamil Nadu, slated for February 2022, with the ruling DMK, with an eye on capturing power in major cities and towns across the state, gearing up to contest the polls involving 21 corporations, 138 municipalities and 490 town panchayats.

The DMK is working overtime to clinch the municipal corporations in Nagercoil, Coimbatore and Salem, whose elections might be especially challenging for it.

The party swept the rural local body polls in nine newly-formed districts in October, and is confident of capturing most of the urban bodies too in the upcoming polls. It may, however, face tough contest in Nagercoil, Coimbatore and Salem, which are bastions of the principal Opposition AIADMK and the BJP.

A senior DMK leader, who has been closely tracking the political situation in these three corporations, said his party considers Nagercoil as the most formidable challenge due to the BJP’s influence there.

Salem is the home turf of AIADMK leader and former chief minister Edappadi K Palaniswami. It had been a major beneficiary during the previous AIADMK regime, bagging a number of infrastructure projects.

Tamil Nadu CM M K Stalin with son Udhayanidhi Stalin after DMK’s victory in the Assembly election. (PTI Photo)

Coimbatore is considered to be the stronghold of S P Velumani, the most powerful minister in the erstwhile AIADMK cabinet. He is said to a popular leader, who is also influential among a section of minority voters. However, a series of raids and several corruption cases registered against him make his position weaker this time.

The DMK leader said, “It is a fact that winning the Nagercoil corporation is going to be the most difficult task. But we are tasked to ensure the party’s victory there. Our workers have already started meeting people to make them understand the dangers of BJP and AIADMK. Coimbatore may be the next challenge. Salem too is not an easy corporation. Latest feedback from party cadres is that we will win Coimbatore and Salem even if it won’t be a huge margin, but Nagercoil continues to be a tough place.”

The outcome of the rural, as well as urban local body elections in Tamil Nadu, has traditionally been in favour of the ruling party – and there does not seem to be any significant signs of such a trend being bucked this time.

A relatively weaker Opposition in the form of the AIADMK, which has been in trouble with at least five of their former ministers facing corruption cases, might also work to the DMK’s advantage.

DMK supporters gather in large numbers during an election campaign rally of Udhayanidhi Stalin in 2021. (PTI Photo)

However, the February state urban body polls might be complex as a number of players, including new parties, are joining the fray. Several smaller parties are contesting this time, including two allies of the AIADMK – S Ramadoss’s PMK and Captain Vijayakanth’s DMDK. Actor-turned-politician Kamal Haasan’s MNM, Tamil nationalist leader Seeman’s Naam Tamilar Katchi and TTV Dhinakaran’s AMMK are other parties that will also contest on their own.

Ex-CM Palaniswami, who has been keeping a low profile for some time, came up with a statement Sunday blaming the DMK for “NEET-related suicides” in the state. He charged that the DMK was politicising and creating unwanted expectations in the minds of students. The AIADMK also issued statements, claiming that they will have a “sweeping victory” in the urban body polls.

Led by party chief M K Stalin, the DMK stormed to power in May this year. Chief Minister Stalin has since announced a number of schemes for marginalised sections and women. This has now forced the AIADMK to campaign over the ruling party’s poll promises not implemented so far – such as the allowance of Rs 1,000 a month to women heads of families, subsidy on gas cylinders, educational loan waivers, and reduction in diesel prices.

MK Stalin Rally at Vellore (Express Photo by Arun Janardhanan/File)

Among a slew of DMK leaders from Chennai and other districts heading to Coimbatore, Salem and Nagercoil is Udhayanidhi Stalin – MLA and CM Stalin’s son. Ruling out reports that Stalin will make him a deputy CM soon, Udhayanidhi, who is camping at Coimbatore, claimed he was not interested in assuming such roles. With the BJP regularly raking up the “family dynasty” issue against the DMK, Udhayanidhi said his role would be that of a “mere messenger or a bridge” between Stalin and party cadres.

The local civic body polls were last held in Tamil Nadu in 2011, in which the then ruling AIADMK, barely six months after winning the Assembly elections, had won all city corporations and a majority of rural and other urban bodies.

Although the tenure of these bodies had ended in 2016, their elections could not be held so far due to several litigations. This led to the local body administration being run by bureaucrats across the state. Their polls were first slated for October 2016, but were cancelled by the Madras High Court following a batch of petitions, including the one filed by the then Opposition DMK, challenging it.

The local body polls were delayed since then after remaining stuck in a web of litigations, filed by different parties including the DMK and the AIADMK, over a variety of concerns including law and order problems, inadequate reservation for Scheduled Tribes, and allegation that the polls were announced in a hurried manner without giving enough time for Opposition parties to make preparations.

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