DMK youth wing leader Udhayanidhi Stalin on Friday launched his party's 75-day campaign ahead of the Tamil Nadu assembly elections due early next year with senior leaders set to highlight the "improper administration" of the AIADMK government. The actor-politician was briefly detained along with his supporters in this district for allegedly violating COVID-19 norms, sparking protests in different parts of the state by DMK activists.
DMK leaders and allies criticised the police action. Udhayanidhi, son of DMK president M K Stalin, launched the campaign from Tirukkuvalai near Nagapattinam, the birth place of late party chief M Karunanidhi, and said in a tweet he embarked on the campaign to take the message of his father Stalin to various parts of the state to end the "darkness that has engulfed Tamil Nadu." Assembly elections in the state are due in April-May next year. The campaign titled "Vidiyalai Nokki Stalinin Kural" (Stalin''s voice towards dawn) will cover all 234 assembly segments. Police here said Udhayanidhi and his supporters were held as the campaign violated the social distancing norms of the COVID-19 pandemic. They were lodged in a marriage hall for about an hour before being released.
DMK MP Kanimozhi, party general secretary Durai Murugan and MDMK leader Vaiko criticised the detention, even as party workers staged flash protests here and elsewhere such as Coimbatore and courted arrest.
A DMK release in Chennai said Kanimozhi, the party's Women's Wing leader, former Ministers K Ponmudi and I Periyasamy among others will tour different parts of the state as part of the campaign. "The leaders will explain to people party President's (Stalin) slogan of walking towards a new dawn by rejecting the ruling AIADMK''s atrocities and administrative lapses", it said. DMK Principal Secretary K N Nehru said 15 top leaders of the party will address 1,500 meetings in 75 days, while M K Stalin is expected to hit the campaign trail in January.
Nehru, a former minister, said since prohibitory orders, barring large crowds for political gathering among others, were in force due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the party chief was expected to hold election rallies from January. "But he (Stalin) is in touch with people through video conference. There will be crowd if he goes for public meetings... after January he will start the campaigning," Nehru said. The DMK is keen to wrest power from arch-rival AIADMK in the state where it has been in opposition for the last over nine years.
The party was routed in the 2011 assembly polls when the late J Jayalalithaa led her party to an emphatic victory and tasted defeat again in 2016, before bouncing back with a strong performance in last year's Lok Sabha elections. The party-led alliance, also comprising Congress, won 38 of the 39 Parliament seats in Tamil Nadu, besides the lone Puducherry seat, leaving just one to the AIADMK, in the first major election in the state held after the demise of Jayalalithaa and Karunanidhi in 2016 and 2018 respectively.