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Tamil Nadu Assembly Elections: Candidates to watch out for

April 27, 2016

As it is, politics revolving around personality cults rules the roost in Tamil Nadu. For decades, J.Jayalaithaa and M. Karunanidhi have remained the tallest political figures in the state and not many in contemporary politics could match the type of hero worship and veneration that they commanded. They have remained perfect rivals – each replacing the other as the chief minister every five years since 1991.

Important candidates in Tamil Nadu polls 2016

Karunanidhi of DMK

Of the two, Karunanidhi, a five-time chief minister, has played a much longer innings in the political arena. At 93, he is not just busy strategizing to see that his Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) dethrones incumbent Chief Minister Jayalithaa’s All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), but is slated to address over 30 election rallies in the state that goes to polls on 16 May.

The DMK patriarch, who has remained undefeated in elections ever since he entered the fray in 1957, is contesting elections for a record 13th time, from Tiruvarur assembly constituency, about 320 km from Chennai. He had shifted to this reserved constituency – incidentally his home constituency – in 2011, and had won by 50,249 votes which was the highest ever victory margin recorded by him in his career. Karunanidhi had then received 1,09,014 votes to defeat his nearest rival from the AIADMK, Kodavasal M. Rajendran.

Incidentally, since 1996, the DMK had always retained the Tiruvarur seat. This time, the AIADMK has fielded A.N.R.Panneerselvam. The other candidates in the fray against the formidable Karunanidhi are the Naam Tamilar Katchi (NTK) party’s Thendral Chandrasekhar and the Bharatiya Janata Party’s Rengadoss N.

M.K. Stalin of DMK

Karunanidhi’s son and DMK treasurer M.K. Stalin is contesting from Kolathur constituency. Last time, Stalin, a former deputy chief minister, had won by a narrow margin of 2734 votes against Saidai Sa Duraisamy of AIADMK who is the incumbent Mayor of the Corporation of Chennai. This time, AIADMK has fielded JCD Prabhakar, a new face to the constituency who had won last time from the Villivakkam constituency.

Jayalalithaa of AIADMK

The incumbent CM, J. Jayalalithaa, already resurrected herself after having faced the ignominy of being the first ever sitting chief minister to be jailed in a disproportionate asset case in 2014. She was temporarily replaced as CM by her close confidante O. Panneerselvam till she returned as CM after the Karnataka High Court acquitted her in the case in 2015. She won handsomely from Dr. Radhakrishnan Nagar constituency in 2015 as she got 88.43% votes in her victory against CPI’s C Mahendran.

She is contesting again from Radhakrishnan Nagar constituency in Chennai and faces challenge from a transgender contestant C. Devi from Naam Tamilar Katchi (NMK) and Shimla Muthuchozhan from DMK. The BJP has fielded M. N. Raja, son-in-law of former AIADMK minister Aranganayakam, against her while the PMK has fielded P. Agnes, its women’s wing secretary against the incumbent CM.

O. Paneerselvam of AIADMK

Jayalalithaa’s trusted aid and former CM, O. Paneerselvam is the AIADMK candidate from the Bodinayakkanur Assembly constituency from where he had won in 2011. He is pitted against DMK’s S. Lakshmanan.

Promising Rivals of AIADMK

This time though, Jayalalithaa – the 68-year-old five-time CM – faces a tough battle ahead in the face of regrouping of her political rivals. Her party faces challenges not just from DMK and its allies comprising the Indian Union Muslim League and the Congress Party, but also from the People’s Welfare Front that comprises Vaiko’s Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, the CPM, the CPI, Thol Thirumavalavan’s Dalit party Vidhuthalai Chirutaigal Katchi, GK Vasan’s Tamil Maanila Congress (Vasan is not contesting this time, but had won last time on the Congress ticket), and Captain Vijaykant’s Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam (DMDK).

Captain Vijayakanth of PWF

Captain Vijayakanth has been made the CM face of PWF. He was wooed by several parties, including the DMK and the BJP. The reason was obvious. His party, DMDK, which was formed in 2005, had won 8 per cent of the vote in 2006 which was more than S. Ramadoss’s PMK and Vaiko’s MDMK. He improved upon this performance in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections with a voter share of nearly 10 per cent. Thereafter, in 2011 state assembly elections, he allied with the AIADMK and won 29 seats! However, he joined the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance before the 2014 general elections but he could not win a single seat and even his party’s vote share dropped to 5 per cent.

Vijayakanth is contesting from Ulundurpet constituency in Villupuram district this time. This is the third successive time that he has opted for a new constituency. In 2006, he had won for the first time from Vridhachalam constituency in Cuddalore district while in 2011, he had won from Rishivandiyam constituency Viluppuram district.

Vaiko of MDMK

The new alliance also brings focus on Vaiko as the MDMK general secretary is contesting any state assembly polls after two decades. He is contesting from Kovilpatti constituency. In 1996, Vaiko had last contested the state assembly elections from Vilathikulam constituency. He had lost by just 634 votes to DMK’s K. Ravisankar.. In the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, he had lost in Virudhunagar.

Can he emerge as a Kingmaker now after putting his weight behind Viajaykanth?

Dr. S Anbumani Ramadoss of PMK

Yet another CM aspirant is the Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) leader Dr. S Anbumani Ramadoss. He is contesting his maiden state elections from Pennagaram constituency which falls under the Dharmapur Lok Sabha constituency that he represents in the Lok Sabha. Son of PMK founder, Ramadoss had also served as Union Health Minister in the UPA I regime (2004-09) as a constituent of the Congress-led alliance. He was a Rajya Sabha MP during 2004-10.

The PMK has declared him its CM candidate and the party is contesting all the 234 constituencies alone. Incidentally, like Vijaykanth’s DMDK, even PMK was a part of the NDA during the 2014 Lok Sabha election. Their decision to sever ties with the NDA also means there is no taker for the NDA in Tamil Nadu this time.

H. Raja of BJP

In such a situation, can the BJP national secretary H. Raja, an outspoken hardliner, make an impact in the fray? He is contesting from T. Nagar, a commercial hub in Chennai. But he could get the ticket only after veteran L. Ganesan opted out of the fray. The BJP has not much say in Tamil Nadu politics but it had indeed hoped for an improved performance after Jayalalithaa was incarcerated in 2014 considering that it was BJP’s  Subramanyam Swamy, who was the petitioner in the case.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed are of those of the author and do not represent the views of

I am a journalist, educationist and filmmaker with over twenty years of experience in the media industry. I have worked in different capacities in all formats (print, television and web) in prestigious media organizations in India and abroad. As a journalist I have covered social issues, natural calamities, successive state assembly as well as parliament elections since 1989, government offices, Indian political parties, state legislative assemblies as well as Indian Parliament.