Elections these days are more about beating an opponent party rather than being a pivotal tool in bringing about a efficacious change and political parties in Tamil Nadu are a leading example at that.

Tamil Nadu has been listed as one of the most corrupt states in India by the National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER) survey. Voters in the state have noted corruption and reservation for jobs as major issues, a survey by the Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR) said.

The two major Dravidian parties in the state which have been alternatively ruling for the past 50 years — All-IndiaAnna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) - have individually made it to headlines for being embroiled in major money laundering cases. The 2G scam, Aircel Maxis case and a disproportionate assets case are a few to start with.

Despite all this, the issue of corruption finds no mention in any of the political rallies as Tamil Nadu enters the last leg of campaigning.

It is not just corruption. Crucial concerns like good governance and over-all development are terms that are rarely used by politicians during their campaign rallies. The four-pronged election battle in Tamil Nadu with giants AIADMK and DMK on one hand, Vaiko-led alternative front (DMDK-PWF-TMC) and the Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) on the other, it is not very strange that the issue of corruption has not been used as a poll plank in one of the largest states of India. "People will laugh if AIADMK or DMK blame the other for corruption. Who is a bigger fraud? They have no stand on that topic. One is better than the other," said a young voter at a BJP rally in Chennai's Royapettah area.

That is unfortunately true.

Corruption is not new to politics but political analysts in Tamil Nadu blame the two Dravidian parties who have ruled the state unchallenged over the past 50 years to have institutionalised corrupt practices in the southern state which goes to polls on 16 May.

"Who will speak against corruption? How will Karunanidhi or Jayalalithaa have any stand on corruption? Parties against corruption don't have the kind of manpower or resource to influence the mood of the people. Media is largely influenced by either the DMK or AIADMK, there are exceptions, but largely they are being influenced by the two parties," says political critic Gnani Sankaran, who added that money is uninhibitedly exchanging hands during the 2016 election.

Youth wing president of Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) and the CM candidate of the party, Anbumani Ramadoss, while campaigning in his constituency Dharmapuri said that its shameful that the two parties, implicated in major scams, have not shied away from giving tickets to corrupt party members.

There was widespread criticism right after AIADMK supremo released her list of candidates. The AIADMK is contesting 227 out of 234 seats in the state, the first time the party is contesting such a large number of seats. Allies have been allotted seven seats in all. These allies too will contest under the AIADMK’s 'two-leaves' symbol. The list surprised political analysts and critics in the southern state and substantiated Ramadoss' allegations.

Jayalalithaa had included several tainted candidates in the list and that — according to journalists and political commentators — was a daring move. Anand Kumar of Firstpost quoted senior journalist R Mani from Chennai as saying, "The AIADMK's candidate list is surprising. This move (to include ministers with allegations of corruption against them) shows the extreme confidence of the party leadership. Even when MGR (MG Ramachandran) was heading the party, such drastic action was not taken by him," he said.

A file image of AIADMK supporters in Tamil Nadu. AFP

A file image of AIADMK supporters in Tamil Nadu. AFP

Numbers and surveys substantiate the rising corruption issue in the state. According to the ADR survey, chief ministerial candidates of three major parties in Tamil Nadu — AIADMK supremo Jayalalithaa, DMK chief Karunanidhi and DMDK leader Vijayakanth — are among the top 10 candidates with highest assets, with several crores worth of assets declared in their affidavit for the upcoming assembly elections. A total of 553 candidates (56 percent of the 997 candidates analysed) from 11 major parties in the state are crorepatis, says the report.

One way or the other, it won't bode well with the voters of Tamil Nadu if either the AIADMK or DMK attack each other on the issue of corruption. According to a senior leader in DMK it is a conscious party effort to not cross any lines while campaigning. "It yields no positive result, in fact, it creates sympathy in the eyes of the voters. Elections in Tamil Nadu are a direct fight between the AIADMK and DMK and its counter-productive if you call out the other on corruption charges," he said.

And this theory has been proven to be correct in the past as well. During the 2001 state assembly elections, DMK went all guns blazing at the AIADMK supremo over her alleged involvement in disproportionate assets case. Jayalalithaa swept the polls with 196 seats that year.  According to poll watchers one of the major factors which helped her seal victory was the sympathy garnered in the eyes of the voters due to the continuous slandering by DMK cadres.

"Amma is committed about what she has done for the state and what she plans to do in the future. There is no place or time for mean and malicious attacks on any other political party. Everyone knows what DMK is. Their reputation preceeds them. AIADMK does not value cheap slandering just for poll benefits and no one has the substance to challenge Amma on any front," asserted Avadi candidate of AIADMK K Panidiyarajan.

In Tamil Nadu, the sheer brazeness of the two parties when they talk about corruption is striking. Members from either parties don't shy away from taking unbolted potshots at each other and when the topic is corruption, their benchmark is each other.

"Amma will come sweeping down on DMK and they will know who is the true leader of Tamil Nadu," bellowed an Amma supporter at her campaign rally in Chennai. "Karunanidhi is corrupt and so is his entire family. They have destroyed Tamil Nadu and we will not let them come back in power."

It is sad that in one of the largest states of India, pertinent issues like corruption, superior living standards and good governance are not even debated among parties and further are not even considered as poll issues. Cult culture and personality-driven polity is what makes Tamil Nadu politics interesting but blind faith caused due to the frenzy is also dangerous.

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