While seat sharing talks between the BJP and AIADMK continue to progress, the ruling party in Tamil Nadu, also has to deal with identifying candidates for seats where it will be contesting from. Over 1800 applications have come in for members looking to contest in the Lok Sabha polls. And sources in the AIADMK tell TNM that the three constituencies in Chennai are amongst the most sought after, with both high profile leaders from the party and alliance partners vying for them.
In the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, the AIADMK under then Chief Minister Jayalalithaa had swept the elections, bagging 37 out of the 39 seats in the state. This time, however, with AIADMK looking to forge an alliance with the BJP, PMK and the DMDMK, the competition within the party has turned intense as leaders vie for the reduced number of seats.
Sources in the AIADMK privy to information on applicants tell TNM that Tamil Official Language Minister and Avadi MLA Mafoi Pandiarajan is the surprise candidate who has put in an application for Central Chennai. Others who are eyeing this seat are sitting MP SR Vijayakumar and former MP N Balagana.
In South Chennai, the competition gets tougher as both the BJP and AIADMK, fight for the spot. Rajya Sabha MP V Maitreyan has put in an application for South Chennai and so has the Fisheries Minister Jayakumar's son V Jayavardhan who is the sitting MP. To add to this political tension, the BJP has insisted upon the constituency for its Tamil Nadu Chief Tamilisai Soundararajan.
Meanwhile, North Chennai which is largely perceived as a DMK bastion has few takers and sitting MP TG Venkatesh Babu is the front runner for the seat.
However, AIADMK sources, make it clear that neither Mafoi Pandirajan nor Maitreyan are likely to get the seats they have asked for. "It is impossible for the party to allow Mafoi Pandiarajan to contest from Central Chennai. This is not about him winning or losing. It is about the fact that we can't afford to lose an MLA at this point," says an AIADMK source, pointing out that the party is already concerned about the pending verdict in the 11 MLAs disqualification case involving Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam. "He is using this as a bargaining chip. We will soon know what his demand is," he adds.
Rajya Sabha MP Maitreyan, party sources say, will not be given the South Chennai seat. Maitreyan, who has increasingly been sidelined in the party, expressed his disappointment in January over being excluded from the pre-poll committee.
"It will go to Jayakumar's son, who is the sitting MP," says a source in the AIADMK. But hasn't the BJP demanded this seat as well?
"Yes but it is decided."