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Candidates battling stress and strain too

By R. Ilangovan

ELECTION SCENE

SALEM, MAY 4. While the long drawn-out election campaign in Tamil Nadu has entered the crucial final phase, candidates of leading political parties, who have been on the roads for close to 60 days now, have started feeling strain and stress. The State is going to the polls in the last phase on May 10.

Almost all candidates of established parties who face stiff fights in the west zone are on the verge of exhaustion, after a prolonged campaign in scorching summer sun, which aggravates anxiety and tension. "I anxiously wait for the poll date," says a former minister, who is one of the contestants. While election managers sweat it out on the field, a core group of associates and relatives monitors the candidates' health from the backseats of campaign vehicles. "The candidates should maintain a healthy physique to withstand the rigours of a such long campaign," says an assistant to the Tiruchengode AIADMK nominee, K. Palanisamy, who faces Subbulakshmi Jagadeesan of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam.

Both are 50-plus. Mr. Palanisamy has a small group of associates to look after his health. "He is a farmer and prefers vegetarian food," says his assistant during a campaign in a remote village, adding only pure water keeps him going.

The utmost priority is being given to homemade food and water.

Generally the candidates (though there are a few exceptions) will never accept eatables and water from outside or from strangers. Stocks of mineral water and biscuits will be kept in the campaign vehicle. Oily and chat snacks are banned.

In certain areas, the people, out of affection, will offer locally-made cold beverages.

"They will feel hurt if we refuse. But we will explain to them the possible heath hazard. They now understand," says a campaign manager.

Time management

The candidates try to adhere to a strict schedule. They split a day into two sessions, one from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and the other from 4 p.m. till the close of campaign time permitted by the Election Commission (in urban areas till 10 p.m. and in rural pockets till 11 p.m.).

While the confident few prefer a two-hour rest after lunch, the others would fully utilise the time for electioneering. A few such as S. Anbazhagan, nominee of the All-India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam in Rasipuram, take a nap in the car itself while travelling from one village to another.

Most of the candidates undergo daily check-ups with family physicians before launching the day's campaign. Blood pressure and sugar are the major tests.

Those who have diabetes consult their doctors as often as possible. A few established parties ask their physicians to accompany the candidates.

"We take care that our candidate does not suffer from bouts of fatigue and heat exhaustion. We cannot afford to lose even a single day," says a close associate of the Salem Congress nominee, K. V. Thankgabalu, who has been on the campaign trail for 40 days now.

The Gobichettipalayam Congress candidate, E. V. K. S. Elangovan, had to be admitted, amid campaign, to hospital for a day for bowel disorder.

For the candidates in the zone, the campaign by their top leaders, a major contributor to stress, is over. But the strain and stress for them will linger until the campaign ends.

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