Even as preparations are underway for the long-delayed local body polls in Tamil Nadu, seat-sharing talks are on in full swing between the AIADMK and the BJP. The national party which has zero lawmakers in the state is seeking to open its account by contesting in councillor and mayor seats across the state. However, the AIADMK which is attempting to shore up popular support ahead of the 2021 Assembly Elections is increasingly wary of the demands its ally is making. Notably, this time citizens will be voting directly to elect the mayor of Chennai as well as that of 14 other municipal corporations in the state.
Given the AIADMK’s recent success in the Assembly bye-elections in Nanguneri and Vikravandi, party insiders say the BJP has greater bargaining power. Speaking to TNM, one AIADMK leader, on the condition of anonymity, says, “We tasted success in Nanguneri and Vikravandi bye-elections under the leadership of Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami. However, when there is a victory, everybody wants to take credit for it. As a result, the BJP is putting forth its demands on the basis of this victory. We also need to keep in mind the electability of other parties since it is local body polls. The ward councillors generally deal with civic issues and addressing these definitely needs the state government’s support. So it would be good for the people if these councillors are well-known to the people at the local level and our party has already done the groundwork for decades.”
Of the mayoral contests that the BJP is looking to face, sources say the Coimbatore City Municipal Corporation is one that it is eyeing. Although, AIADMK sources are quick to add, “This is only at the demand stage, we are yet to take these up and discuss. We have only recently invited candidate applications.”
Local body elections, which have been delayed by three years, are widely expected by the end of the year. In June this year, the state government issued a notification in the gazette listing all the wards vacant across Chennai and other districts. In September, District Election Officers (DEOs) were asked to appoint Returning Officers for the polls.
Apart from this, the currently leaderless state wing of the BJP has also been pushing for right-wing Hindu outfits across the state to come together for the local body polls. The plan is to contest at the panchayat and ward levels.
The upcoming polls are significant for they elect the local government at the urban municipalities and rural panchayats. At the urban level this includes chairperson and members of the town panchayat ward, and councillors of municipality wards councillors of corporation wards, and their chairpersons of the municipality and corporation. At the rural level this includes members of the village panchayat ward, president of the village panchayat, members of the panchayat union wards and members of the district panchayat. In addition to being at the frontline of addressing citizen's issues, these elected individuals also organise the grassroots of political parties, especially at election time.