Even as the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and its allies basked in the glory of cornering most of the top positions in the just-concluded urban local body elections, a few untoward incidents dented the image of the ruling party and provided ammunition to the opposition campaign that the DMK was a party that encouraged goondaism.
The feel good moments this morning included Chennai getting its youngest and first Dalit Mayor in 28-year-old R.Priya of the DMK. She is the third woman Mayor of Chennai. Kalpana Anandkumar of the DMK unanimously won the Mayor’s post in Coimbatore, and in doing so notched up many firsts: the first from the DMK and the first woman to hold the post in Coimbatore.
The DMK’s Indrani Ponvasanth won the Madurai mayoral contest by a unanimous voice vote, as did Kavita in Karur and Vasanthakumari in Tambaram, Sangeetha in Sivakasi, Sujatha Anandkumar in Vellore, and Ilamathi in Dindigul. In Cuddalore, the DMK’s official candidate, Sundari, defeated a DMK rebel to become Mayor. The DMK contested 20 of the 21 Mayor posts, fielding 11 women and nine men.
Tense moments prevailed in Kancheepuram when a DMK ward member decided to contest against the official candidate. The DMK’s choices reflected the party’s focus on naming women to top posts in a bid to sway the women’s vote in the long term. The formal election to the top posts in 21 corporations, 138 municipalities and town panchayts was held on March 4.
R. Priya holds a master’s degree in commerce and is the first Mayor-nominee from North Madras (Ward 74, Mangalapuram), a neglected part of the Chennai’s old city. Priya’s father, R. Rajan is a local DMK functionary and Priya herself has been a member from the time she turned 18. Almost all candidates to the top posts are from humble backgrounds.
The Congress named K. Saravanan, an autorickshaw driver in Kumbakonam, for the post of Mayor. "This is only possible in the Congress," the Tamil Nadu Congress Committee Twitter handle said. "Congress will always be the voice of the common people, and will support them in their amelioration." On March 4, Saravanan came in his autorickshaw to the Corporation office and was unanimously elected Mayor.
DMK cadre created a ruckus in at least two places, Annavasal in Pudukottai district and Usilampatti in Madurai district where DMK ward members seem to have decided to vote for opponents. In Annavasal, the AIADMK had won eight of the 15 seats. The DMK won six and an independent won one. Although talks between the agitated DMK cadre and the police were on from 9 a.m., when the voting process was about to close DMK cadre began throwing stones in the direction of the town panchayat office, eyewitness accounts said.
One policeman was injured. Three DMK cadre also suffered injuries in the police action. The police Rapid Action Force was deployed and the election was completed. The AIADMK candidate won. In Usilampatti a dispute between two groups led to a tense situation and stone-throwing. Police dispersed the groups and restored order.
In Udayendiram town panchayat, near Tirupathur, one DMK member cross voted, enabling an AIADMK victory. Of the 15 members, the DMK had won eight, the AIADMK six and one was an independent. The member from the third ward, Maheswari, supported the AIADMK candidate. Similarly, in Manapparai (Tiruchi), the AIADMK captured the municipality after a gap of 53 years with help of independents.
The DMK’s allies had surprises in store for them at Sriperumbudur (allotted to the Congress), Nellikuppam Municipality (Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi) and in Tirumuruganpoondi (allotted to CPI-M). The official candidates lost in all these places. A senior Congress leader explained that this was to be expected because not all cadre would listen to the party directives.