Ruling parties face stiff challenge in India polls

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Old 13-Apr-2011
Ruling parties face stiff challenge in India polls

UNP ImageChennai/Thiruvananthapuram/Puducherry: Nearly 70 million people are eligible to vote on Wednesday in assembly elections in the southern states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Puducherry where ruling parties are facing a stiff challenge from a determined opposition.

The elections, pundits say, could unseat at least two ruling coalitions the DMK-led front in Tamil Nadu and the Left Democratic Front (LDF) in Kerala.

Perhaps the most politically significant election will be in Tamil Nadu, where the main battle is between two Dravidian giants the ruling DMK and the opposition AIADMK.

Around 45.9 million voters can pick 234 legislators from 2,748 candidates, including 141 women. There are 54,016 polling booths spread all across the sprawling state.

The Tamil Nadu outcome is bound to cast a shadow on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's coalition in New Delhi in which the DMK is a key ally. Chief Minister and DMK patriarch M. Karunanidhi is seeking election to the assembly for a record 12th time and as chief minster for the sixth time.

AIADMK leader and former chief minister J. Jayalalitha is exuding confidence after pre-election surveys predicted a win for her alliance. She has focused on rising prices, power cuts, the spectrum scandal and the law and order in Tamil Nadu.

In Kerala, which has the tradition of catapulting the opposition to office in every election, the ruling LDF faces an aggressive challenge from the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF).

The 22-million electorate, including 11.9 million women, will pick from among 971 candidates including 78 women. There are 20,758 polling stations.

Two pre-election surveys have indicated a victory for the UDF in the battle for the 140-member legislature.

In Puducherry, the ruling Congress is eyeing a hat-trick of victories. The choice in the union territory will be mainly between incumbent Congress Chief Minister V. Vaithilingam and former Congress chief minister N. Rangasamy, who now heads the All India NR Congress. Around 810,500 voters are eligible to vote in 30 constituencies.

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