Monday, Jun 03, 2002
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By P. V. V. Murthi
R. Vadivel, victorious candidate acknowledging greetings from supporters during a procession taken out by AIADMK and Indian Union Muslim League cadres at Vaniyambadi on Sunday. Photo: M. Moorthy
It has emerged a strong winner despite the DMK fielding a well-known Islamic devotional singer, E.M. Hanifa, and other Opposition parties including the DMK, the MDMK, the Indian National League and its supporters, Congress, Tamil Maanila Congress, CPI (M) and CPI, dinning into the ears of the voters the ``unpopular'' decisions taken by the Government such as increase in bus fares and electricity tariff, and taxes on essential commodities.
Though the DMK virtually made the byelection a referendum on the one-year AIADMK rule, the presence of eight Ministers who camped in the constituency ensured the victory of their party candidate.
Besides party functionaries and MLAs and MPs from Vellore and Tiruvannamalai district, those from Madurai, Erode and Coimbatore were drafted. The Education Minister, M. Thambi Durai, stayed put in the constituency and supervised the work of by other Ministers.
As a Congress functionary in Ambur put it, the AIADMK victory was due to a realisation among the voters that electing an Opposition candidate in a byelection would not help them in any manner. The people, especially tanners at Ambur and Vaniyambadi had much to gain by electing the ruling party candidate, the AIADMK having four more years left of its tenure. With the Ministers giving the electorate subtle assurances on new development schemes, a fear of ruling party vengeance in the event of an Opposition victory also influenced the voters' preferences.
DMK campaign lacklustre
The AIADMK victory was also aided by a lacklustre DMK campaign. The general view is that Mr.Hanifa was too old to perform effectively as MLA must have also weighed with the voters. Above all, with Muslims constituting only 32 per cent of the voters, the AIADMK consolidation of the Hindu vote bank has helped the ruling party, with the rural masses showing their traditional preference for the `MGR party'. A sizable number of the Muslim electorate have also voted for the AIADMK, especially at Ambur and Vaniyambadi. These towns are lacking in good roads and potable water, besides good bridges, with the Palar cutting across the town. They need the ruling party help in getting their needs fulfilled. And this explains the result.
While Mr. Vadivel, who is also the State agricultural wing secretary of the party polled 63,599 votes, Mr.Hanifa secured 43,878.
Mr.Vadivel was leading over his DMK rival in all 25 rounds of counting except in the sixth round in which he trailed by 220 votes.
The Indian National League finished third with 11,324 votes, the MDMK fourth with 3191 and the New Justice Party with 1135.
Except Mr. Vadivel and Mr. Hanifa all candidates (18) lost their deposits.
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