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Wednesday, 9 May, 2001, 16:17 GMT 17:17 UK
Tamil Nadu's two-way battle
Workers unload voting machines
Voting in Tamil Nadu will use electronic machines
By Sampath Kumar in Madras

Campaigning has been largely peaceful in what state observers are calling one of the most bitterly contested elections in Tamil Nadu's history.

Current party strength
DMK 174 seats
AIADMK 47 seats
Although there are three-pronged contests in most constituencies, the main battle is between two fronts.

The first is made up of the ruling alliance of 16 parties including the national Bharatiya Janata Party and is led by the state's Dravida Munnetra Khazagam (DMK).

It faces an opposition alliance led by the All-India Anna Dravida Munnetra Khazagam (AIADMK), which includes the Congress, the Tamil Maanila Congress, the Pattali Makkal Katchi, two communist parties and two Muslim parties.

The AIADMK leader - the colourful former chief minister J Jayalalitha - has been appealing to voters as the chief ministerial candidate, although she has officially been barred from contesting elections because of convictions on charges of corruption.

Jayalalitha's campaign

The thrust of her campaign has been to target her rival - the current chief minister and the leader of the DMK, K Karunanidhi.

Jayalalitha
Jayalalitha: Barred by corruption conviction
She alleges Mr Karunanidhi put pressure on electoral officers to reject her nomination papers.

Political analysts say she is hopeful of cashing in on a possible sympathy vote following the rejection of her official nomination.

The DMK leader, for his part, has trained his guns on the numerous charges of corruption pending against Jayalalitha from the time she was chief minister between 1991 and 1996.

Hung assembly

Seventy-six year-old Mr Karunanidhi is trying to evoke sympathy by reiterating that this is his last election - given his age.

Although most opinion polls indicate a return to power for Jayalalitha's alliance, political analysts do not rule out a hung assembly for the first time in the state.

In neighbouring Pondicherry, there are three main alliances in the running.

The AIADMK is in alliance with the regional Pattali Makkal Katchi against the DMK on the one hand and an alliance of the Congress, Tamil Maanila Congress and a communist party on the other.

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See also:

15 Mar 01 | South Asia
Indian opposition capitalises on crisis
14 Mar 01 | South Asia
Scandal threatens Indian coalition
01 Mar 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: India
01 Mar 01 | South Asia
Timeline: India
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