Sunday, April 3, 2011

One man, one vote, one value


When Tamil Nadu goes to the polls on April 13, it will be doing so for the first time in over 30 years with fully redrawn Assembly constituencies.
The last delimitation of constituencies was in 1976. The present delimitation, carried out throughout the country during 2004-2007, was aimed at eliminating the gross inequalities in the number of voters across constituencies that had developed over the years.
For example, both Chepauk and Harbour constituencies, held by Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi and Finance Minister K. Anbazhagan in the outgoing Assembly, had around 1.5 lakh voters each in 2006 while the Tambaram and Villivakkam constituencies had 8.72 lakh voters and 9.4 lakh voters respectively.
In fact, some Assembly constituencies such as Villivakkam were almost as big as some Lok Sabha constituencies: in 2004, the size of electorate of the Perambalur Lok Sabha constituency was 9.9 lakh. Delimitation then was a bid to restore the principle of “one man, one vote, one value” which had fallen by the wayside.
Unlike the earlier Delimitation Commissions, the latest Commission had no power to change the number of constituencies. It was because of this that the total number of constituencies in the State remained intact. But, invariably, the extent and size of all the constituencies have undergone changes. Generally, the average strength of each Assembly constituency in the State is around two lakhs.
Basic unit
In the State, the Delimitation Commission did attempt to adopt the panchayat, not revenue village, as the basic administrative unit for the re-organisation of constituencies. This was in deference to the demand from representatives of the public. But, the Commission had to shelve the idea for lack want of authentic panchayat-level data.
During the course of delimitation, 44 Assembly constituencies were abolished and an equal number of new constituencies created. In some cases, the constituencies' names have been retained, though they have been remapped.
For example, most parts of Aruppukottai in Virudhunagar district have been transferred to the newly-formed Tiruchuli constituency. However, the name has been retained and parts of the neighbouring Sattur and Virudhunagar constituencies have been added to the present Aruppukottai.
While some districts gained constituencies, others lost. But, what was apparent was that the northern districts of the State had gained. Tiruvallur, Chennai and Kancheepuram got two more seats each and Vellore one additional seat, whereas the southern districts' share was reduced by five seats.
Demographic shift
Behind all this, is a sharp demographic shift, as can be seen from the electoral rolls, released in January this year.
Nine southern districts — Madurai, Virudhunagar, Theni, Dindigul, Sivaganga, Ramanathapuram, Tirunelveli, Tuticorin and Kanyakumari — have about 1.14 crore voters whereas just three northern districts — Chennai, Kancheepuram and Tiruvallur — have 78 lakh voters, accounting for nearly 70 per cent of the entire southern region.
Demographic changes are visible in the case of the Scheduled Castes too. The number of constituencies reserved for them has been increased from 42 to 44. While eight districts including two northern districts — Tiruvallur and Vellore — have got one extra SC seat each, five districts have lost six SC seats. Tiruvarur, the Chief Minister's home district, has lost two SC constituencies.
When the delimitation exercise was carried out, there were concerns among political parties that they might lose their traditional strongholds. However, they now say that electoral fortunes are not solely determined by the delimitation. Several leaders have had to shift their constituency because of the delimitation, some because of the change in classification from reserved to general or vice versa.

"Vote for DMK will ensure continuance of schemes"

The DMK President and Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi campaigning in Natrampalli off Vellore district on Saturday. Photo: S.R. Raghunathan
Kasi, who is on the wrong side of 70s, was one among those who waited on Saturday on the Chennai-Bangalore National Highway in Natrampalli, about 75 km from here,  for a few hours to see Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam president and Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi.
Braving the hot sun and the temperature of 40 degree Celsius and plus, Kasi did not even have footwear. Asked why he had come, his reply was: “I may not be able to see him again, given my age." In normal times, that spot in Natrampalli would have been just another place located off the highway. But, on Saturday, a number of people had come from nearby villages and areas. For about two hours, members of the DMK were making the place full of activity with some beating drums and some others, wearing t-shirts with the colours of the party, going around in two wheelers and hailing their leader.
By the time the Chief Minister arrived there, it was close to one o'clock in the afternoon. The DMK cadres, along with those of the Pattali Makkal Katchi and Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi, shouted “Kalaignar Vazhga!" The next stop was Vaniyambadi. The narrow CNA Road was full of people on either side, particularly near the local bus stand. Senior citizens and women belonging to the Muslim community were the visible section of those who were eager to have a glimpse of the Chief Minister. The police found it extremely difficult to control the crowd which was about to break the security cordon. The convoy was back on the National Highway. This time, the destination was Ambur. An equally good number of people was there to greet the DMK leader. Many of them had come from 18 nearby villages. Everywhere, Mr Karunanidhi spoke briefly. His theme was: A vote for the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam-led front in the Assembly elections would ensure the continuance of welfare schemes of the DMK government.
As he covered different parts of the Vellore district, he was accompanied by one of his senior colleagues and the party nominee for the Katpadi constituency, Durai Murugan. The DMK chief, who began his second round of election campaign on Wednesday in Coimbatore, came from Salem to Natrampalli in the afternoon. En route, he addressed people in parts of Dharmapuri and Krishnagiri districts.
After a few hours' rest at the VIT campus, Mr Karunanidhi went to Katpadi to seek votes for Mr Durai Murugan.

Support AIADMK to end family rule: Jayalalithaa


AIADMK general secretary Jayalalithaa addressing an election meeting at Tirunelveli town on Saturday.The April 13 electoral battle should be waged fiercely not only for a change of guard in the State but also to liberate Tamils and Tamil Nadu from the clutches of Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi and his family, “which is plundering the State and its abundant wealth for its well being even as seven crore Tamil families are in the lurch,” AIADMK general secretary Jayalalithaa said on Saturday.
Campaigning at Tirunelveli town, Ms. Jayalalithaa said voters, hit hard by the unbearable and unprecedented inflation and spiralling prices of essential commodities and construction materials, could now construct their homes only in their dream.
The unheard of power cut had crippled industrial units and hit productivity, leading to heavy revenue loss.
To make the situation worse, the law and order situation had deteriorated since the entire State was under the control of a gang. However, the police, supposed to be the law-enforcers, were dancing to the tune of Mr. Karunanidhi and his family.
After listing the promises made in the AIADMK manifesto, Ms. Jayalalithaa said that a new reservation policy would be evolved to the satisfaction of Christians and Muslims if the AIADMK came to power.
New roads along the watercourse of the Tamirabharani to connect Tirunelveli and Tuticorin districts, favourable changes in ‘deployment norms' haunting schools being run by minorities, special attention for their economic development, ring roads around Tirunelveli to ease traffic congestion and rail over bridge at Thatchanallur were some of the promises made by her.
Condemning the attack on the tahsildar at Keezhavalavu near Madurai on Friday, she urged the Election Commission to initiate stringent measures against the culprits.

CORRUPTION

Addressing an election meeting in Kanyakumari, Ms. Jayalalithaa blamed the DMK government for large-scale corruption, failure in ensuring uninterrupted power supply and price rise.
DMK president M. Karunanidhi, she charged, was not worried about the people of the State but was keen on promoting “one-family rule.”
The price of petrol was revised nine times in a year and this affected people, but Mr. Karunanidhi did not raise his voice against the “anti-people act” of the Centre as the DMK is a partner in the United Progressive Alliance government.” Regarding Kanyakumari district, she said that steps would be taken to upgrade Nagercoil Municipality into corporation. Adequate funds would be allocated for the construction of Marshal Nesamony manimandapam and a statue of Chidambaranathar, who was also instrumental in the merger of Kanyakumari district with Tamil Nadu, at Kaliyakkavilai.

DMDK, PMK fight over Vanniar votes


Vellore (TN): The heartland of the backward Vanniar community of Northern and Western Tamil Nadu will see DMDK and PMK slug it out for electoral honours in the April 13 polls.

The community, which accounts for over 35 per cent of the population, was once considered PMK's vote bank. But the scenario changed after advent of DMDK, floated by actor politician Vijaykant, who weaned away Vanniar youth from PMK.

In the last assembly and Lok Sabha polls, DMDK had garnered a substantial vote bank in this area, leading to defeat of all PMK nominees. PMK, which contested the elections in the company of the AIADMK, has now aligned with ruling DMK.
  
Though DMDK and PMK will contest directly only in six constituencies -- in north and west, the increasing percentage of votes DMDK has got in the last two polls points to a tough fight in the Vanniar-dominated constituencies.

Despite the popular PMK slogan of 'Vanniar vottu anniyarku a lla' (Vanniars will not vote for candidates of other castes), Vijaykant's maiden win over a PMK candidate from Vridhachalam in the 2006 polls, where Vanniars and Adi-Dravidars are predominant, indicate DMDK is eating into PMK's vote bank.

Interestingly, the same PMK candidate who lost to Vijaykant in 2006 had triumphed in the previous assembly polls against a DMK candidate in 2001. This shows how DMDK has hijacked the vote base in the Vanniar stronghold since 2006.

Vijaykant's contest from Rishivandhiyam, also in north, this time shows DMDK's confidence in countering PMK's influence in the region. Rishivandhiyam voters have favoured a Congress candidate which had PMK in its alliance in the last two elections.

While DMK has allotted 26 of the total of 31 seats to PMK in the northern and western regions, K Malaichamy, former MP of AIADMK asserts, "We (AIADMK) are very strong in the west and we have DMDK in the north." DMDK contests most of its 41 seats from northern and western segments.

The DMDK that took off in 2005, secured 8.38 per cent and 10.09 per cent vote share in 2006 assembly and 2009 Lok Sabha polls respectively, while PMK has been on the winning alliance in the last two assembly elections.

The fact that DMDK has bagged 41 seats from the AIADMK alliance while long-term AIADMK ally MDMK was virtually shown the door shows how it has grown in strength in the last five years and has become a political force to reckon with.

On the other side, PMK was inducted into the DMK alliance in a similar manner even after it ruffled feathers with the ruling party between the assembly polls. Moreover, the DMK completing the seat-sharing exercise with PMK long before it did with Congress displays DMK's expectations from the PMK.

With the issues in the assembly polls being more local, snatching the sentiments in the Vanniar heartland from each other will be the contesting points between PMK and DMDK. At least largely for that reason alone both parties seem to have found a place in their respective alliances.

Vanniar community, right from the first general elections in 1952, had been returning its caste members to the assembly and Parliament.

The late S S Ramaswamy Padayachi, a prominent leader of the Vanniar community, along with late Manikavelu Naicker floated the Common Wheel party in 1952, which bagged a sizeable number of seats in the belt, denying an absolute majority to the Congress in the composite Madras State.

Even well-known newspaper magnate late Ramnath Goenka, as a Congress candidate, had to toil against little known Thirukural Munusamy at Tindivanam of the Common Wheel party to enter the Lok Sabha.

Late C Rajagoplachary, who was sworn in as Chief Minister after the then assembly polls, negotiated a deal with both leaders to 'create' majority for Congress in the house.

Karunanidhi hits out at Election Commission


Chennai: Coming down heavily on the Election Commission once again, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and DMK president M Karunanidhi on Saturday wondered whether it was he or the poll panel that was ruling the state.

Addressing an election rally in Vellore, around 125 km from here, he said: "Is it me who is ruling the state or the Election Commission? I do not have any complaint if everything is done as per law."

 He said: "I don't want to comment or fight the Election Commission. If the Election Commission functions impartially nobody would complain about it."

Obliquely referring to Brahmins he said those who wear the 'poonool' (sacred thread) are bent upon ensuring that the DMK does not came back again to power in the state.

Referring the welfare measures initiated by his government, he said during the previous AIADMK rule government officials were dismissed and arrested. Around 12,000 road workers were dismissed.

"I was arrested midnight by the police barging into my bedroom," he said.

Karunanidhi said even if the DMK does not come back to power he and his party would continue to work for the welfare of the people.

Mr.Vijayakanth campaign for DMDK AIADMK alliance

Mr.Vijayakanth campaign for DMDK AIADMK alliance

Mrs.Premalatha Vijayakanth campaign for DMDK AIADMK alliance

Singamuthu's campaign speech aginst comedian Vadivelu