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Dindigul: Are elections really on?

By Ganesh Nadar in Dindigul
Last updated on: April 28, 2006 14:32 IST
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Dindigul is a district with seven assembly constituencies. But if you go around the district headquarters, you would wonder if the elections are really on.

Some say this is because of the strict rules of the Election Commission. So there is no graffitti on the walls. There are no posters anywhere in the main town. There are no loudspeakers. Very few vehicles ply canvassing for votes. In the daytime, they go to the surrounding villages. In the evening, they come into town.

One cycle rickshaw was displaying a Bharatiya Janata Party flag. The man was a die hard fanatic. He said that earlier he had been in the Hindu Munani and was now in the BJP. He said his candidate was a lawyer. His only aim in life was to build a Ram temple in Ayodhya.

A few auto rickshaws and cycle rickshaws displayed posters of the Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam.

A group of young men said that it did not look like elections in Dindigul as none of the candidates were spending money. On the one hand, you had the Communists who never spent money. On the other hand, you had the MDMK which was not loosening the purse strings. These were the parties contesting in Dindigul constituency.

Then there was Karthikeyan of the Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam, which is Vijayakanth's party. Now Karthikeyan's father had a lot of business in Dindigul. But it did not look like he was splashing money either. Elders say that this area consists of smart voters and it would be difficult to say who they will vote for.

Malar, a young girl, said she would vote for the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam as they would be good for the people. An autodriver said that he would vote for the Communist candidate as he was a DMK supporter.

Out of the seven constituencies the Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam was contesting in six, leaving one to its ally the MDMK. The DMK was contesting in four leaving two for the Congress and one for the Communists. There were three lady candidates. Two from the ruling party and one from the Communist party.

In true Congress style, a few party members had revolted against the high command and local command and were canvassing for the ADMK openly.

The Dindivanam Ramamurthy faction in the party was silent. The rest were campaigning for their own party and its allies.

K Navaneethan, a senior Congress party official, said that in Dindigul money power would not make an effect on the electorate as everyone had money.

As it's the summer holidays, you meet a lot of city folks in Dindigul. Arul is a businessman from the state capital.

He says "Chennai always voted for the DMK, but this election they won't. You know why? Remember when Ten Sports had the telecast rights for showing cricket matches. The entire country including small villages saw it live. But not Chennaites. All because of Sumangali Cable Vision. They did not broadcast it. The people will not forgive them for that. They'll lose because of that."

Now SCV belongs to the Sun TV group owned by the Maran family.

Not broadcasting cricket is certainly 'not cricket'. And deciding your vote because of cricket is certainly not politics. But this is a cricket crazy country.

Dindigul is famous for its Gandhigram Rural University. 60 students from Dindigul are going around five constituencies in Dindigul creating voter awareness.

They distribute pamphlets, put up posters and talk to the voters. They talk about elections, voting rights and how to select a candidate after analysing his background.

The professor in charge of this awareness rally G Palanithurai said, "Civic responsibility is missing in our lives. This awareness campaign is to reiterate that. The common man is not respected throughout the year. He is respected only during the elections. This is because in casting our vote we engage in the political process, but do not engage in public matters after that.

"As citizens we should discuss public issues and come to a decisoin. We should let the politicians and the bureaucrats know our opinion about matters that concern the public. Only then will they respect us always.

"In the run upto the elections there are a lot of personal attacks. They treat each other like enemies. This is not a sign of democracy. Democracy is not only an election, it's a culture. We have to learn to respect the opinion of others."

Outside the main bus stop there was this hotel which said that you save Rs 12 when you eat there. They serve mineral water free. And their home delivery counter had this slogan: 'U ring V bring'.

This hotel symbolises Tamil Nadu elections.

Both the DMK and the ADMK have been promising so many freebies, but none have promised free mineral water. As for home delivery. The DMDK (Vijayakanth's party) is going to deliver PDS goods straight home.

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Ganesh Nadar in Dindigul