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“We do not know which symbol we need to ask people to vote for,” says Vikraman, spokesperson for the VCK, as independent symbols are likely to be allotted only on Monday.

A voter getting inked before casting his votes
news 2021 Tamil Nadu Assembly Election Monday, March 22, 2021 - 12:09

Almost a century after the Dravidian movement, Tamil Nadu remembers two things: the stalwarts of AIADMK and DMK, and the ‘two leaves’ and ‘rising sun’ symbols that play an important role in Tamil Nadu politics. Just like the fight for the CM post, in the past century, there have been battles for the ownership of the symbols since leaders like Anna, Kalaignar, MG Ramachandran had time-and-again made several efforts to register their symbols in the minds of the people.

Only in a rare case have the two Dravidian majors contested with the same independent symbol—the rooster—in different elections and won. In the 1957 polls, DMK contested with the rooster symbol, after breaking away from Dravidar Kazhagam. And in 1989, AIADMK stalwart Jayalalithaa’s faction also contested under the rooster symbol, immediately after the demise of MGR. Both times the respective parties emerged victorious. However, the fight between the two symbols—rising sun and two leaves—has probably been a constant since these symbols are firmly registered in the minds of the people. And it takes time for people to get familiar with independent symbols.

Against this backdrop, for the upcoming elections, parties are gearing up to gain the trust of the people to vote for their candidates. But this is an uphill task, for those contesting under independent symbols and for independent candidates, who will only be allotted symbols by Monday.

TNM spoke to a few candidates and parties contesting under independent symbols to learn about the challenges they face on the field.

Registering in the minds of the people

Actor and comedian Mayilsamy, who has appeared in several Tamil movies including Dhool, is contesting as an independent candidate from Virugambakkam constituency. Talking to TNM, he said, “I am contesting because I want to work along with the people and there is dissatisfaction with the ruling government. So I want to contest and achieve something in politics. However, I don’t think I will have much of a challenge in establishing myself since I’m already a well-known person.”

Mayilsamy further added, “I have a face value and it has helped me a lot. But for the unfamiliar faces, registering their symbol and contesting the polls within a short duration, may face difficulties.”

Echoing the challenge, Surya Prabhu, a 29-year-old candidate from Karur constituency, said, “The poll officials have accepted my nomination today (Saturday) and I’ll be allotted a symbol on Monday. The time to campaign is short, and at least the symbol could have been given to us earlier.”

“We are planning to make a pamphlet and manifesto and distribute it to the people. And we have sent a list of symbols to the EC which we think will resonate with the public. In the state, most of the people vote for legacy rather than the actual candidate, so it becomes difficult for us to gain trust and make people vote for us within such a short span,” he said.

In 2021, this challenge isn’t only faced only by independent candidates since the battle is spread out with the emergence of new parties and strong alliances. So even parties that are well-known, among the public, are set to face the elections with independent symbols as they are yet to be recognised by the Election Commission (EC).

Demand for same symbol in all constituencies

In Tamil Nadu, Thol Thirumavalavan’s Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK) is set to contest in six constituencies and the party will face the polls with independent symbols. VCK is also expecting the symbols to be confirmed by Monday.

R Vikraman, spokesperson of VCK said, “Currently, our candidates are in the field campaigning for the party but till now we do not know which symbol we need to ask people to vote for. The symbol was allotted for MNM since they contested independently, but we have two sitting MPs but do not have a symbol yet.”

Makkal Needhi Maiam (MNM) was allotted the torchlight on January 15, the symbol the party used to contest in 2019 elections.

“The EC could have allotted our symbols before, because now by the time they give us a symbol, we will have only 15 days left. We have asked for ‘pot' or 'key’ symbol but they have allotted the ‘pot’ symbol to an independent candidate,” he said. The VCK founder, Thirumavalavan who won the 2019 Parliamentary elections, contested using a pot symbol.

Another challenge the party is facing is that they are not sure if they will get the same symbol for all the seven constituencies they are contesting from in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry. “Even now they are saying that we may get different symbols for each constituency. If that’s the case, then it may become difficult for us,” said Vikraman. “However, we have asked for the same symbol and we are confident about the win so we will do online and offline campaigns.”

He further added, “We will do digital campaigns and digital advertisements. And we are hoping that the last-minute election push will help us to register the symbol in the minds of the people.”

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