YEH HAI INDIA
PIC OF THE DAY
Gift your parents good health
N Sathiya Moorthy in Chennai
From meeting aged voters - three of them past 100 years - to promising drinking water projects, ruling All India Anna DMK chief Jayalalitha is leaving nothing to chance.
She is expected to return as chief minister next week. Yet, in Andipatti, 'Amma' is talking more and more about the constituency and less and less about the state administration.
"I will make Andipatti the 'golden constituency' in the country," Jayalalitha promised at one wayside meeting.
Elsewhere, she promises roads that had been promised even when AIADMK founder and then chief minister M G Ramachandran contested from the seat from a hospital bed in the US way back in 1984.
Where there is a sprinkling of educated voters, Jayalalithaa seeks to dispel fears of an imminent cancellation of free power for farmers and a steep hike in the price of rice.
'Amma' also makes sure that her election is not hijacked by court cases. Care is taken to avoid any violation of the Election Commission's model code of conduct.
The party sacked a local functionary who sought votes in Tamil newspapers and Jayalalithaa's motorcade comprises no more than three vehicles, including that of the 'Black Cat' commandos who guard her.
The media and party functionaries are kept at a safe distance from the motorcade.
"We are fighting not just a by-election in Andipatti, but also those who ensured Amma's disqualification during last year's assembly polls," says a senior AIADMK leader. "We are not taking any chances."
The rival DMK too is leaving nothing to chance, but in a different way.
Party president M Karunanidhi was accompanied by not less than 40 vehicles during his day-long campaign. So was his son and Chennai Mayor M K Stalin.
The AIADMK has already taken up the case of Stalin's 'procession' with the Election
Commission, which has deputed three observers exclusively for the 'sensitive' constituency. It has also deployed CRPF personnel in large numbers for Thursday's polling.
"So what if they charge us with violating the code? If our nominee Vaigai Shekhar loses, it does not make any difference," says a DMK leader.
"But, if Jayalalithaa loses," he adds cautiously "it would make a difference, we would have made our point."
"It is unfortunate that the Election Commission has not initiated any action on our complaints about the violation of the code of conduct - developmental projects being undertaken in Andipatti over the past six months and continuing up to the polling day," he added.