Chennai: The AIADMK leadership, which is facing its first Assembly elections in the post-Jayalalithaa era, on Wednesday, shrewdly handled the constituency sharing exercise with its allies BJP and PMK. The ruling party also released its second list of 171 candidates in which three ministers – Nilofer Kafeel (Labour), Baskaran (Khadi) and Valarmathi (Backward Classes) – did not figure.
The Palaniswami-Panneerselvam duo also denied tickets to over 40 sitting MLAs including MGR-era veteran S Semmalai, whose Mettur constituency was allotted to the PMK. Till now, the AIADMK has fielded 15 women candidates, many of whom were either present or past legislators/ministers.
Observers were quick to note that the AIADMK had taken care to deny the BJP two seats it had been eyeing – the Chepauk-Thiruvallikeni constituency in Chennai and Rajpalayam in south Tamil Nadu’s Virudhunagar district.
Yesteryear actor Kushboo, who had quit the Congress (she was in the DMK before that) and joined the BJP last year, had eyed the Chepauk-Thiruallikeni seat. Another yesteryear actor Gauthami, also from BJP, was keen on contesting from Rajapalayam.
Much before constituencies and even alliances were finalised, both these film stars had set up BJP election offices in the two constituencies and for the past many weeks been on a door-to-door meeting, besides holding multiple meetings with party functionaries for readying the field. Kushboo had sipped tea from road side stalls and fallen at the feet of elderly women to seek their blessings. In fact, just an hour before the constituency list was declared, she had tweeted photos of her groundwork and said, “Door to door campaign, handing over pamphlets on @BJPIndia schemes n policies and how people of tamilnadu have benefitted the maximum under the leadership of PM @narendramodi ji. Where ever go, people shower their love n blessings upon me. So blessed. @BJP4TamilNadu.”
However, the constituency was allotted to the PMK. The Chepauk-Thiruvallikeni, has traditionally remained a DMK bastion (in its earlier avatar as Chepauk), and was represented by former DMK patriarch M Karunanidhi thrice (till 2011). This time there were talks that DMK president M K Stalin’s son and actor Udhayanidhi Stalin would be fielded from there. But with earlier reports of Kushboo’s likelihood of contesting from there, Stalin was reluctant to give a ticket to his son as there were apprehensions that he would be confined to the constituency in a high voltage battle and not be in a position to tour the rest of the State.
It is unclear if Kushboo would now be fielded from some other seat.
As for Gauthami, her seat was allotted to Dairy Minister Rajenthra Bhalaji, who is shifting seats from Sivaganga.
In the DMK side, the constituencies for MDMK, IUML and a few smaller parties were identified and allotted on Wednesday. It still has to finalise the constituency identification with the Congress, Left Parties and VCK.
Meanwhile, actor Kamal Haasan released the first list of candidates in which he fielded former IAS officer Santhosh Babu and a couple of anti-corruption activists among others.
The PMK released its first list of 10 candidates in which its president G K Mani and others were fielded.