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Jaya convict vow & poll list

Chennai, Feb. 24: Jayalalithaa today vowed to counter the Centre’s challenge to her plan to release the Rajiv Gandhi assassination convicts and not let rivals grab the Lanka card as her party became Tamil Nadu’s first to announce Lok Sabha candidates.

“Whatever has to be said will be conveyed through our lawyers to the court,” the chief minister said when asked about her government’s response to the Centre’s Supreme Court plea against her plan to free the convicts.

Jayalalithaa stole a march over other players by naming the ruling AIADMK’s candidates for all 39 Lok Sabha seats in the state and the lone seat in Puducherry, the announcement coinciding with her 66th birthday today.

Once seat-sharing with the CPM and the CPI is clinched, AIADMK candidates would withdraw from the seats allotted to the two allies, the chief minister said. The Left parties are likely to be given two seats each.

The AIADMK has retained only three of its nine sitting MPs, M. Thambidurai, P. Kumar and D. Venugopal.

Two sitting MPs — C. Rajendran and K. Sugumar — scarred by a sting operation have been dropped. The duo had figured in a Cobrapost expose that allegedly showed 11 MPs willing to give recommendation letters to a fictitious oil firm for rewards.

The AIADMK list is a mix of new faces and some old loyalists, including three former MLAs.

Four women have been fielded, as have 15 advocates and five doctors, suggesting a stress on educated candidates.

Jayalalithaa said she would address campaign meetings from March 3 to April 5.

“It is a good list and shows lot of preparation, especially after Jayalalithaa had to withdraw two Rajya Sabha nominees after she found out they had criminal cases against them. This list has been vetted by intelligence to ensure all the candidates are clean,” said a police officer.

The DMK is interviewing poll hopefuls now. The BJP is yet to finalise its list, with prospective ally DMDK, led by actor Vijayakanth, proving a slippery customer. The Congress is trying to revive its ties with the DMK.