It is a clash of political titans in Oddanchatram constituency as locally powerful political heavyweights who enjoy overwhelming community support lock horns in a fierce battle in their home turf for their political survival.
After a successful hat trick, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam candidate and government chief whip R. Sakkarapani has jumped into the battlefield with his own popularity and community affinity on the one hand and political mileage and good work on the other. Senior All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam candidate (AIADMK) P. Balasubramani, who lost the 2009-Parliament polls to Congress rival N.S.V. Chitthan, faces his DMK rival with a massive support of his community members. Sympathy wave in his favour is his plus point.
Both are popular and well-known among the Gounder community, a major vote bank. The battle is crucial to both because its outcome will certainly change their political career.
Mr. Sakkarapani snatched the constituency from AIADMK in the 1996 poll, and has retained it till now. Even as anti-incumbency wave wiped out the DMK throughout the State, Mr. Sakkarapani retained Oddanchatram defeating his AIADMK rival in the 2001-poll.
Criminal court, new electric crematorium, spacious bus stand, RDO office, RTO office, upgraded primary health centre at Kallimandayam, his native village and upgrading middle and high schools to high and higher secondary schools embellish his canvas of achievements.
But he faces the wrath of farmers, a majority vote bank, as they strongly suspect his hand in the crash in the prices of Superbily, a medicinal plant and a main cash crop in the wholesale market. (Many farmers incurred a huge loss owing to poor procurement price for Superbily, thanks to a syndicate formed by local traders and commission agents.)
Muddle in opening Mega farmers' market, chaos and malpractices in allotment of shops to farmers and tacit nod for commission agents to sneak into mega farmers' market as sellers, are against Mr. Sakkarapani.
Grabbing large tracts of land, adopting coercion and threats at Kallimandayam and nearby areas and anarchic behaviour of party functionaries and total neglect of Dalits — a deciding vote bank — deteriorate the whip's name among common voters and may put a spoke in his electoral plans. Moreover, domination and rude behaviour of elected representatives of panchayats and meddling of his loyalists in every activities that whipped up anger of traders are only tip of the iceberg. Money and muscle power are two weapons he has to offset his setbacks.
Having tasted defeat thrice in the previous polls, Mr. Balasubramani is trying his luck for the fourth time. For the first time, sympathy wave of the community seems to blow towards him. The AIADMK candidate has started making good of his rival's weaknesses through personal contact with voters. A desperation to win the seat has even forced both the candidates to field their wives and family members in the election campaign.
In the 2009-Parliament poll, Mr. Balasubramani got 60,763 votes against Congress candidate N.S.V. Chitthan, who gained a meagre 236 votes more in the Oddanchatram segment. DMDK got 8,255 votes. The AIADMK has enhanced its vote bank sizably in the polls when compared to 2001 and 2006 polls.
It will certainly be a neck and neck race in Oddanchatram. Total electorate in this constituency is 1,95,915 — 98,244 men and 97,671 women.
Keywords: Tamil Nadu assembly polls