Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Puducherry go to polls on Wed

Chennai/Thiruvanathapuram: Tamil Nadu and Kerala will go to polls on Wednesday to elect their new assemblies in one of the closest battles that witnessed a bitter race between rival fronts.

About 6.91 crore voters will have the right to vote in these elections which may be the swan song of the political careers of chief ministers M Karunanidhi and V S Achuthanandan, both 87.

In Tamil Nadu, ruling-DMK led front is battling serious odds with the AIADMK-combine launching an all out offensive to dislodge Karunanidhi, veteran of many a successful electoral battle in his seven decades of public life.

In neighbouring Kerala, another battle-scarred veteran Achuthanandan is trying to buck the trend of electorate voting alternately between LDF and UDF once in five years.

In Puducherry, the Congress-led combine, including DMK and PMK, is facing a tough challenge from the front led by former chief minister N Rangasamy`s All India NR Congress that has AIADMK in its fold.

Being pillars of their respective fronts, the wheel-chair bound Karunanidhi and CPI-M stalwart Achuthanandan, sprightly despite his age, have both campaigned intensely turning the clock back.

The main rival for DMK is the Jayalalithaa-led AIADMK which has sewed up a formidable alliance. Both Karunanidhi and Jayalalithaa had confidently asserted during a no-holds-barred campaign that their party would form the next government.

In what is seen as a do-or-die battle for Jayalalithaa, the AIADMK leader has sought to whip up anti-incumbency sentiments, asking people to end `family rule` of Karunanidhi.

Polls in Tamil Nadu this time, described as `challenging` by Chief Election Commissioner S Y Quraishi himself, have come under EC`s microscopic scrutiny following allegations of free flow of money by the ruling party to lure voters.

In highly politically polarised Kerala where marginal swings could turn the tide either way, ruling CPI-M-led LDF is battling Congress-headed UDF.

Initially, the odds appeared stacked against LDF going by the political trends reflected in the Lok Sabha and civic polls in which UDF acquitted itself remarkably.

But LDF got a big boost after the end of uncertainty over entry of Achuthanandan who now seems to have taken the fight to the UDF camp in his characteristic aggressive style.

The electoral battle is intense in all 140 segments with no wave palpable in favour of either LDF or UDF.

}