Of the five seats where DMK leaders are facing AIADMK ministers, the most heated contest is likely to be in Bodinayakanur constituency where Stalin has fielded Thanga Tamilselvan, the former close aide of AIADMK rebel T T V Dhinakaran, to take on AIADMK Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam.
Retaining most of its veterans including many district secretaries and former ministers, the DMK Friday announced candidates for all the 173 Tamil Nadu Assembly seats it is contesting. Like rival AIADMK, there are very few newcomers and woman candidates in the DMK’s list — with the exception of M K Stalin’s son Udhayanidhi Stalin and senior DMK leader I Periasamy’s son I P Senthil Kumar, who got tickets along with their fathers.
Udhayanidhi, 43, will be making his electoral debut from Chepauk-Triplicane, the constituency held by his grandfather, the late M Karunanidhi. The DMK youth wing secretary will face a PMK candidate, from the rival AIADMK-led alliance, in the seat.
Of the five seats where DMK leaders are facing AIADMK ministers, the most heated contest is likely to be in Bodinayakanur constituency, located in a region bordering Kerala. The DMK has fielded Thanga Tamilselvan, the former close aide of AIADMK rebel T T V Dhinakaran, to take on AIADMK Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam from here. Tamilselvan had stood by Dhinakaran through the most challenging period faced by the Sasikala family in 2017 and 2018, and was a propaganda secretary in the party floated by Dhinakaran, AMMK.
Tamilselvan had left after Dhinakaran lost his legal political battle with the AIADMK and all his 18 MLAs, including Tamilselvan, got disqualified. Tamilselvan joined the DMK ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
Tamilselvan and Paneerselvam are old rivals from the region. Theni, Paneerselvan’s hometown, is the closest town to Bodinayakanur, and is considered an AIADMK bastion for its powerful OBC Thevar votes.
Another heavyweight who deserted the Sasikala camp to join the DMK, Senthil Balaji, is contesting from Karur against the not-so-popular state transport minister M R Vijayabaskar. Losing Balaji, once a favourite minister of the late Jayalalithaa and a leader with immense clout in Central Tamil Nadu, was one of the major losses suffered by the AIADMK in the internal battle following her death.
Environmental activist-cum-farmer Karthikeya Sivasenapathy — who was at the forefront of the Jallikattu protests and is among the few new faces to have found a space in the DMK list — has got a ticket from Thondamuthur near Coimbatore, against powerful AIADMK minister S P Velumani. Considered a close aide of Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami, Velumani has been negotiating with the BJP on the AIADMK’s behalf.
While Sivasenapathy will add some spirit to the fight, Velumani is likely to sail through in the seat, being very popular for his development works and welfare schemes.
In Tirumangalam, the DMK’s M Manimaran will be fighting another popular AIADMK minister, R B Udhayakumar. The latter’s claim to fame remains once coming to the Secretariat without footwear saying Jayalalithaa was god.
Among the surprises in the DMK list is Dr Ezhilan Naganathan, who got a ticket from Thousand Lights constituency in the heart of Chennai city, represented by Stalin several times in the past. The son of DMK leader M Naganathan who was very close to Karunanidhi and his fellow morning walker, Ezhilan was the personal physician of the DMK chief in his final years.
Among the DMK veterans, Stalin is re-contesting from his old seat Kolathur, located in the Chennai suburbs, while DMK leader Durai Murugan will be contesting from Katpadi, which is part of the Vellore Lok Sabha seat. While Murugan’s son had won from Vellore in the 2019 polls, the election had been mired in controversies and raids, with the Election Commission (EC) cancelling polling there twice.
Among the other DMK stalwarts to retain their seats are Trichy’s K N Nehru, M R K Panneerselvam, K Ponmudi, Subbulakshmi Jagadeesan and Aladi Aruna. Anbil Mahesh, considered the successor of Nehru in Trichy, is also contesting.
Udhayanidhi’s rise in the DMK has been fast, unlike Stalin who spent a long time in his father’s shadow. While he first started making political appearances in 2018, in July 2019, then past 40, Udhayanidhi was made DMK youth wing secretary, soon after the party swept the Lok Sabha elections in the state.
Sources say mother Durga Stalin has been instrumental in pushing the actor and producer, who is openly religious in a party that once swore by atheism, into politics. “She wants to make Udhayanidhi the successor of Stalin,” as per a top source.
The time is ripe, with other contenders to Karunanidhi’s legacy, such as Stalin’s brother M K Alagiri, having already fallen by the wayside.
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